Due to the public health crisis concerning COVID-19, many STEM outreach programs were altered. The Army Educational Outreach Programs (AEOP) adjusted as they remained vigilante to the mission of providing enrichment activities that spark the interest of STEM for all students.
The Army partners with academia, industry, not-for-profit organizations and other government agencies to effectively engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent through K-college programs and expose them to DoD STEM career opportunities.
One of the many summer opportunities for students that was adjusted due to the current heath situation was Camp Invention. Camp Invention is a weeklong summer camp that targets kindergarten to sixth grade students. This camp allows students to be engaged with hands-on unique challenges that builds problem solving processes and aligns to developing essential 21st Century skills.
Local schools are provided with scholarships that are funded by the AEOP. This year a total of 10 states and 26 schools benefited by the AEOP partnerships. The Vicksburg Warren School District in Vicksburg, Mississippi was one of many school districts that received scholarships to aid in promoting STEM opportunities for students.
The Vicksburg Warren School District received a total of 310 scholarships. These scholarships enabled many students to participate that possibly would not have had the opportunity otherwise. The school district registered a total of 424 students, 20 teachers, and 5 directors. The camps were established at 5 different school locations which allowed for a diverse population of students to participate.
Due to the unique circumstances this year, Camp Invention went VIRTUAL! This did not diminish the fun or engaging collaboration that typically takes place in a traditional in-person setting. Students received their Camp Invention supply kits via mail and were given the choice to either work independently or virtually with a teacher. Certified educators facilitated the virtual platform and provided guidance and instruction throughout the completion of the projects.
Mrs. Emily Richardson served as one of the directors for a Camp Invention site in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She shared the following upon the completion of the camp.
“I am very glad I took the chance with Camp Invention Connect. It was wonderful to see all the kiddos build and explore at home. I think this is such an incredible program., and I am so thankful that so many children were able to experience it though scholarships. The experience of “virtual camp at home” may seem as if it would be impersonal and cold but it was everything but that. Now, more than ever, our children of the community need socialization, and this program was able to give them, and the adults, just that. Thank you for making all of this possible for our children.”
Many students were actively engaged and extremely excited to participate virtually with the help of certified instructors. Avery Claire Hern, age 9, was one of the students that registered and participated. She expressed these sentiments about her experience.
“Camp Invention was a lot of fun. I enjoyed taking the robot apart to see how it worked. I also enjoyed using my creativity to make a game controller out of clay. “
One of the positives of this unprecedented time was that it allowed us to look beyond what was typical and see the vast possibilities when it comes to educational outreach! With this new and innovative summer in the books, we look forward to the future of AEOP opportunities to engage students in STEM activities.