Summer for students can be a time of relaxation in the warm sun and a chance to catch up on rest.
It also can be a time for discovery.
The School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering showcased some of what it has to offer and provided an opportunity for middle school and high school students to explore potential career paths during a series of summer camps held on campus in late June. The Engineering Tomorrow Summer Camp for grades 5-8 was held as a day camp June 18-22, and the residential camp was held for grades 9-12 June 24-30. The SICE Summer Camp for grades 9-12 was held from June 17-23, including an extended camp that provided attendees to work extra days on their projects.
Matt Hottell, a senior lecturer and the director of SERVE IT who was one of the organizers for the SICE Summer Camp, was impressed with the level of knowledge the students brought to the event.
“Students are coming into the camp, and we’re finding that they know more when they walk in the door than they once did,” Hottell said. “I think all of the students are getting a little more computing experience before they come in. They have more devices. They’re exposed to more information. I think they’re doing better as a result. They don’t need to be coders, but they understand the basic concepts a little bit better.”
The theme for the SICE Summer Camp was data and ways campers could acquire data, analyze it, model it, and present findings on data. It also provided focused tracks that gave students the chance to explore etextiles, robotics, graphic design and web development, and working with Raspberry Pi computers. Campers also had the opportunity explore the campus via tours and geocaching, and they enjoyed other activities such as bowling. For the first time this year, the SICE Summer Camp offered the option for students to leave on Thursday or stay until Saturday morning.
“We had about half of our campers sign up for the shorter session and half for the longer session,” Hottell said. “They all stayed in our Living Learning Center in Teter Quadrangle, and it connected students to a closer approximation of what a true freshman experiences when they move onto campus.”
Samir Alirivera traveled from his home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to attend the camp. The long journey was worth it.
“This has exceeded my expectations,” Alirivera said. “It’s way bigger than I thought. When I came into Dorsey Learning Hall, I saw the two projectors and the two massive screens, and I was completely surprised. I had never seen anything like that. Everything is so nice here; it’s really cool.”
Alirivera was one of three students from Puerto Rico at the camp, and campers from 20 different states were in attendance.
Alice Bishop traveled from Ocala, Florida, for the camp and stretched her passion for programming.
“I’ve been working with the Raspberry Pi and game design,” Bishop said. “It’s great to see computer science and informatics in action. It has always fascinated me, and I really enjoyed the chance to see if I wanted to pursue this kind of work for a career down the road.”
The Engineering Tomorrow Summer Camp allowed campers to explore virtual reality, mobile robots, smart devices, and robotic arms, and the middle school camp incorporated paper circuits and wearables, and LEGO Mindstorm projects into the curriculum. Both the high school and middle school sessions of the camp included other activities such as scavenger hunts, Q&A sessions with counselors, and more.
“We had a whole spectrum of students,” said Bryce Himebaugh, a clinical assistant professor of computer science who also served as an organizer of the Engineering Tomorrow camp. “There was a diversity of backgrounds, and we worked to give them all a taste of what they could accomplish across a number of areas before letting them choose what they wanted to focus on. You want them to get the most out of the camp and give them the skills to learn and apply an understanding of computing to different domains where they can envision themselves solving real-world problems.”
Elena Kalbley, a Grand Rapids, Michigan native who has a number of IU alumni in her family, was impressed with the Engineering Tomorrow camp.
“I like the space here at Luddy Hall,” Kalbley said. “It’s pretty cool to see the higher end of the spectrum with things like precision laser cutters. The dorms were nice, and I love the giant hissing robot (Luddy Hall’s signature sentient art installation Amatria) on the fourth floor. Anybody can do this camp. You don’t need prior experience.”
Seth Feickert didn’t travel the same distance as some of his fellow campers, but the Bloomington native was still exploring new worlds.
“I’m into electrical engineering, but when I heard about this camp, I thought it would be a good opportunity to broaden my horizons,” Feickert said. “It has been really fun. I don’t usually code, but I needed to do that while building my own smartwatch with a touchscreen. I’m increasing my skillset, and it’s really helping me grow.”
All of SICE’s camps, whether it be the Summer Camp or the Engineering Tomorrow camp, are designed to teach students one simple lesson.
“Hopefully the campers learned that computing skills are a thread that run through all of the areas of our camps,” Himebaugh said. “Whether they want to do something with robotics, the Internet of Things, networking, building websites or developing games, they all involve computing skills. Our job is to give them an understanding of some of the basics to make computing more accessible to everyone.”
For more information on SICE’s slate of summer camps, visit our website.