A Peek into NTC Summer Camps – Rocketry and Spheros Summer Camp Notes
Written by: Alex Curtis | Posted Jun 5, 2019

– By Elizabeth Wood

My name is Elizabeth Wood, and I am a rising junior majoring in computer science, with a minor in philosophy, at Wake Forest University. As an intern with the Greater Nashville Technology Council this summer, I am finding and attending technology-related events in the Nashville area, about which I will be writing for NTC blog posts. While I am hoping to go into software development after I graduate, I am excited to be able to spend time this summer meeting professionals and exploring many other possibilities that computer science offers.

Going Back to Summer Camp

To kick off my internship with the Greater Nashville Technology Council, I’m making visits to NTC’s Summer Camps. These week-long tech camps are designed to be fun and challenging, encouraging problem solving and collaboration skills in students eight through 18. First up was the Rocketry and Spheros Summer Camp at Tulip Grove Elementary School, a STEM camp for rising third through fifth graders. Throughout the camp week, campers engineer their own bottle rocket that they launch on the final day, in addition to learning how to program a ball-shaped robot called Sphero to complete various mazes and challenges.

Creativity + Tech = Fun

Off the bat I was impressed by the nature of the camp, as it encouraged collaboration, analytical thinking, and creativity all in the very first activity. Campers were broken into teams of about five or six and given a set of ten or so materials to build a basic robot with their team. Once they had finished, teams were prompted to develop a mechanism of attaching markers to their robot so that it would create a work of art as it drives. Afterwards, all campers came together to debrief their activity. I heard from several campers note that building the robot was challenging at first, but that they were pleased to figure it out and to put the robot to use to create art.

The second activity of the day was an exciting virtual reality field trip to outer space that consisted of a walk through of four different angles of the Milky Way galaxy. As soon as the adventure began, the room lit up with ooh’s and aah’s, which only grew louder as the adventure continued. By the end of the experience, campers were nearly bursting with excitement and awe at what they had seen.

Sparking Excitement for the Future

During lunch, I had the opportunity to speak with several campers and find out what I’d been wondering all day: was this just some fun summer camp to the kids, or did any of them see themselves as future scientists or engineers? When I asked the five third graders with whom I was eating what they wanted to be when they grew up, what they said did not disappoint. One girl told me that she wanted to do something that helps people or animals, so she might be a “pet groomer, a zoologist, or one of those people who looks under a microscope to find cures for diseases.” I also heard from one boy that he planned on being a video game maker like his uncle, who has the best job in the world. Finally, a quiet boy at the end of the table told me that he was going to be a computer scientist. As a computer science major myself, I did not know what computer science was until high school, at least. I am pleased to know that camps like these inspire young kids and cultivate drive to become programmers, computer scientists, and other STEM related professionals.

Next Up

The next program I plan to attend is the R-Ladies Meetup on June 5th. I’m looking forward to learning more about the programming language R and how it is used in supply chain analytics, and I will have the opportunity to connect with that professionals in that community. Know of a tech-related event or usergroup meetup I should check out, tweet to @nashtechcouncil and let me know!