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Sizzling Science at WNC Summer Camp

So just what happens at science camp?  Blue Ridge Public Radio’s Helen Chickering stopped by the Summer STEM Academy at Southwestern Community College in Sylva to find out. 

“Ahhhh my eyes, they are burning!” 

It’s the last day of camp, and middle school campers at the Summer Science Technology Engineering and Math, or STEM Academy at Southwestern Community College in Sylva are putting on a show.  It’s a STEM spin on the traditional camp skit.  Campers have created their own public service announcements around a theme, The Great American Eclipse.

“What’s a solar eclipse?”

About twenty campers are gathered in a classroom on Southwestern Community College campus in Sylva.  Small groups take turns performing or showing a video of the PSAs they created.

“The eclipse is coming, here it comes put on your glasses and have some fun.”

This is the second year SCC has hosted the free camp, part of a NASA funded grant through the Smoky Mountain STEM Collaborative.   

Matt Cass, Physics Professor and Principal Investigator of the Smoky Mountain STEM Collaborative helps direct the program.

“This year, we went with an exploring your solar system theme, looking at the sun that’s relevant, because of the solar eclipse,” says Cass.

Jackson County just happens to be in the path of totality for the August 21st solar event, STEM academy campers have been soaking up the celestial facts in a week packed full of astronomical adventures,

“What we’ve been doing is just phenomenal fun stuff.”

That’s sixth grader Avery Hester, who says his favorites were the field trips, including a visit to Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman...

“We’ve gone to PARI, “says Avery, “which has two ginormous satellites. 

We’ve gone to App State, they showed us around and we did a project with a Mars Rover, if we were stuck on a planet we should build a satellite, had a phenomenal time.

Phenomenal fun is a great way to get kids excited about science,  says Southwestern Community College director of institutional development Lynda Parlett.

“They see things and it’s like wow! It opens a world of opportunity to them that they didn’t know existed, “

A world that is right in their own back yard, or on this last day of camp, right down the hall, where just before lunch, campers gathered to see electricity in action with a Tesla Coil demonstration,.

“Tesla Coil was so cool”

Just one of the many cool science lessons, seventh grader Ashleigh Connor says she’ll take away from her week at STEM Camp.

“It’s been really fun, “ says Ashleigh. We learned about planets in other galaxies, that I had no idea they existed, and the difference between a meteor an a meteorite. “

A week of hands-on science, wrapped in fun, an experience camp organizers hope will spark an interest in the field, maybe even a career.

At the Summer STEM Academy on the campus of Southwestern Community College,  I’m Helen Chickering, BPR news.

Check out some of the Eclipse PSAs created by the STEM campers:



Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.