Middle, High School Students Learn STEM Skills at UVA Camp

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Middle and high school students are camped out at the University of Virginia Monday night. Rising eighth- and ninth-graders will be staying in the dorms until Wednesday, to get a college experience while building model solar cars, Mars rovers, and more.

The camp is called BLAST, which stands for Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology. The goal is to advance the students by giving them hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

"They're understanding that science isn't - you don't have to be a nerd, you don't have to be a brain, it's just being willing to try something different and new,” said Cheri Faley, a high school teacher who’s chaperoning the program.

"I've wanted to be an engineer since I was in third grade,” said Chris Hawkins, a rising ninth-grader. "Having the background information and experiences will help me"

The three-day camp is hosted by UVA but chaperoned by teachers selected from all over Virginia, who say the kids aren't the only ones learning. Kelli Bratton hopes to take ideas about hands-on learning back to her own classroom in the fall.

"Sometimes you really just need to sit back and say, ‘Here you go. Try and figure it out for yourself and it’s OK to be wrong, or its OK to not get things exactly right.’ That's part of the process and the scientific method,” Bratton said.

One of the projects the students will take on is making a model Mars rover, designed to be remotely operated from another location.

The camp is free for all of the students participating, who were selected through an application process in which they wrote essays explaining what they hope to get out of the experience.

The program is also being offered at Virginia Tech.

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