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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2015

Preteens explore technology at JBSA-Randolph summer camp

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

An educational program July 27-31 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Youth Programs gave a group of preteens an opportunity to immerse themselves in activities ranging from 3-D printing to video game design.

The students participated in the STEM-Maker Camp conducted by instructors from Geekbus, a program operated by SASTEMIC, a San Antonio nonprofit organization that is an advocacy group for science, technology, engineering and math.

 “We try to get kids interested or find out if they are already interested in the different STEM areas,” Jason Culwell, SASTEMIC educational facilitator, said. “We focus on things that are easy for us to teach and are the most engaging for the kids.”

Each day brought a different activity for the 8- to 13-year-old participants – 3-D printing on Monday, stop-motion animation on Tuesday, robotics on Wednesday, computer programming and soldering on Thursday and video game design on Friday.

Students also spent time on the Geekbus itself, a mobile makerspace that came to the camp on Thursday. Inside the Geekbus are 3-D printers, robotics, electronics and a variety of materials for students to use in their STEM explorations.

“It’s a very hands-on experience for the kids,” Andrea Black, JBSA-Youth Programs coordinator, said of the STEM-Maker Camp. “This is the first time we’ve offered this camp; we’re starting to explore STEM more in youth programs.”

Davis Chancey, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, said he enrolled in the camp because his mother thought it would be interesting. It turned out she was right.

“I love it,” he said. “The best part was building a Lego robot. You program them and tell them what to do. It’s fun.”

Davis also enjoyed learning soldering techniques to make robot pins and looked forward to video game design on the last day of the camp.

“Video game design is my favorite,” he said. “I want to be a game designer.”

Culwell said each activity helps students in a variety of ways. He pointed to stop-motion animation as an example.

“It helps them with developing patience and gives them an eye for the placement of things,” he said. “It helps with spatial orientation.”

Luke Survis, who is assigned to the 502nd Force Support Squadron as part of the Career Broadener Program, said Geekbus’ educational facilitators keep the camp lively and make it more challenging each day.

“The facilitators are doing a good job making it entertaining for the kids,” he said. “Each day it takes more skill, and that holds their attention better.”

Culwell said the summer camp and Geekbus activities during the school year allow students to better understand STEM subject areas, but the hands-on experiences also help them decide if they’re interested in pursuing jobs in the technology sector.

“There are a lot of high-tech jobs out on the market not being filled because we don’t have enough people with the right skills,” he said. “We help them develop those skills. They’re the future, and if we don’t have enough kids interested in STEM, they will grow up to be adults who aren’t interested and there won’t be enough adults to keep the world running at the level of technology we’re used to.”