Campers Sharpen Science and Math Skills at UVA 'Blast Camp'

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Campers at UVA's Blast Camp Campers at UVA's Blast Camp

For many kids summer camp means eating s'mores, sleeping in a cabin and fishing - but for one group of campers it means sharpening up their science and math skills. The University of Virginia School of Engineering is hosting a three-day Blast Camp. 

When many of us think of learning about science and math, we imagine sitting down with a pencil and paper and doing calculations - but Blast Camp is just the opposite.

"Science, math, it's all part of who I am and it's all things that I love to do," said Katie Rose, a camper.

Blast campers split up into groups Monday to build cars run by solar energy.  They also did an exercise called "save the penguins."  The goal was to keep ice cubes - shaped like penguins - from melting. It took a little heat transfer and a lot of brainstorming.

"We were able to construct a small dome-like structure and using bubble wrap, tape, popsicle sticks and aluminum foil we were able to reflect the light while still providing an air cushion for the ice and to let the circulation flow to keep it cool," said Rose.

Larry Richards, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UVA, teaches at the camp and says the hands-on aspect helps students remember what they learned for years.

"The worst thing for getting students to understand something is to talk at them, the best way to get them to learn things is to give them hands-on exercises," said Richards.

The groups had to make their creations work and do it cost effectively. One camper says each project takes a lot of group decision-making.

"We're putting little fishing weights on it and solar panels and we have to measure out light to see which light we like best," said camper Layne Taobott.

Over the next three days the students will focus on solar power, heat transfer, space exploration, chemistry and forensic science.

Eighty students from all across Virginia were chosen to attend the camp. 

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