Fruit Flies, Fighting Robots, Oh my!!

Today the students got to go across campus to the Old Pharmacy building that has now been converted into a “multidisciplinary building” that houses several biology laboratories, including Dr. Robin Cooper’s. Dr. Cooper and several of his graduate students led the students through a series of different experiments involving neuroscience, specifically our senses and the sense of fruit flies. Students explored heart rates using sensors and computer programming – they were able to see an echocardiogram of their heart. They analyzed their heart rates at rest and when they were excited.

They also worked with fruit flies, conducting a variety of experiments with them. They gathered data and analyzed their results to produce scientific conclusions. One of their favorite experiments was inducing a coma:

Robotics proved to be exciting today with the mini-challenges over and the rings taped on the floor…it was “fighting” time today! The students took turns having their robots competing against each other…the last robot standing won! Most of the competitions were one vs. one, but I heard through the grapevine there were about 6 robots competing against each other at one point…

In their words… We ask the students the three questions below each day…here are some of their answers.

What did you learn about today that you did not know before?


  • That your heart rate changes when your scared rather than relaxed.
  • Flys can last 3 hours in cold temperatures
What did you like about what you learned today?


  • I made flies pass out…
  • I thought that looking at fruit flies’ behaviors was really neat because you could learn about why it is that they do the things they do.
Would you like to learn more about this topic?  Why or why not?
    • Yes, if I want to be a surgeon this will be vital to my success

Conversation Starters…

  • What are the rules of the sumorobots competition? How do you win? Do you program your robot for different moves or how do you take out your opponent? 
  • What does the light sensor on the robot do?
  • What did you learn about your heart?
  • What was the most interesting experiment you did on the fruit flies? What did you learn from it?
  • How long was your fruit fly in its coma?
  • Has this camp made you think about a career in mathematics, science, technology, or engineering? Why or why not?

Video of the Day…

Don’t forget about the pictures we have here! Can you believe tomorrow is the last day!!??

Building a Sustainable Future

What does it take to make a water bottle? How long does it take for a water bottle to decompose? What are companies doing to make their water bottles more environmentally friendly? What EXACTLY does it mean to be sustainable?

These are some of the questions your students had to think about as they worked with Dr. Leslie Vincent, an assistant professor from the Gatton College of Business. Dr. Vincent showed them the power of the media through a variety of pictures and asking the students for their reactions. They learned about sustainability, what makes a product sustainable, what a sustainable future could look like, and even got to design a sustainable product. In order to get their creative juices flowing, the students worked in teams to build a bridge out of newspaper and masking tape. The bridges had to be a certain height and the goal was to hold a gallon jug of water on their bridget for 10 seconds without collapsing. The students had a great time designing and building their bridges and we got the competition on video that we will be posting tonight after the uploads finish. We also were able to capture their innovative product presentations and we’ll be sharing those with you as well. You have some very creative students!!

In robotics, they continued with their sumorobot challenges in preparation for Thursday and Friday’s competitions. The students are really enjoying the different challenges and are really using their engineering practices to problem solve their way through the challenges.

In their words…

  • Pizza boxes are recycled boxes.
  • How much water and trees and other natural materials are wasted from bad eggs and pizza boxes.
  • I learned that billion of eggs are wasted per year because some are cracked before purchased, therefore the whole carton is wasted.
  • Many companies are working on sustainable products.
  • Cooperation is the key to making a product.

Conversation starters…

  • Tell me about the cracked eggs…
  • What is sustainability?
  • How did you work with your team to build your bridge? How long did your bridge stand? What were some of the challenges in building your bridge? How did you plan your bridge out?
  • Tell me about the product you designed. Do you think someone would buy your product? What makes your product sustainable?

Video of the Day… CLICK HERE!

Don’t forget to check out the pictures updated daily for glimpses of what your students are doing!

Brainiac Tuesday at STEM Camp

Have you ever held a brain in your hands? Have you ever thought about what it would feel like? Our bodies are amazing functioning machines, with the brain and spinal cord at the core of that functioning. The students got to learn all about that today at STEM Camp and even got to hold a brain and a spinal cord. There was even a brain cut in half so you could actually get a glimpse of what the inside looked like! The students were really surprised at really how “squishy” the brain is. They learned about the importance of the dura covering the brain in addition to the skull itself. The students were also amazed at how narrow and flimsy the spinal cord was. They really enjoyed today…even the students who weren’t too sure about having a real brain in the room at first. In addition to the exciting hands-on features of today’s events, the students conducted nerve experiments on each other.

In robotics today, they finished building their robots if they needed to and then started on their first challenges. The students had a lot of fun trying to figure out the initial challenges and changing up the program code on their robots. It’s always great to see the students working together to problem solve and test their new solutions!

In their words…

  • When you are right handed you use the left half of the brain
  • The brain has a protective cover called the Dura mater
  • You have the same number of brain cells when you are a baby as when you are grown up
  • The frontal cortex is not essential to living
  • There was a man who had a train spike impaled through his head and lived

Conversation Starters…

  • So what was it like to hold a brain today? Was it what you thought it would be?
  • Why is the frontal cortex not essential to living?
  • What is important about the dura matter?
  • What challenges did you work on today at Robotics?
  • How do you like programming the robot?

Photo of the day…

IMG_1784Aren’t they a great looking group!!??

Click here to check out all the pictures we took today. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @seebluestemcamp for real-time updates about what your kids are experiencing throughout the day!

Week 2 Begins!

stem camp 2013Welcome to the UK See Blue STEM Camp week 2…for the 7th and 8th graders! We have a great group of 72 students this year who were very eager to start up this morning even though we had dreary weather for a Monday!

Today was “Engineering Day” with Dr. Bruce Walcott in the College of Engineering. Dr. Walcott has helped out with numerous outreach and education activities for the past several years; he is always a very big hit with the kids as he plans for exciting things! The kids got to tour various parts of the engineering complex and talk to a variety of different engineers. Many of the kids did not know what an engineer did nor did they know there were some many different types of engineers! They conducted a few small experiments (including the one below!) and got to explore different pieces of equipment. They also explored a few engineering principles (really mathematics principles!!) such as building a boat out of aluminum foil and seeing how many pennies it could hold, and building a special motor.

In robotics today, the students began by building their robots…this week the robots they are building and doing challenges with are the sumorobots. Almost all of the groups finished up building today and will begin their challenges tomorrow. We got so excited about watching the kids robots take shape that we forgot to snap some robotics pictures! We promise to do better tomorrow.

Your kids will be working in groups all week long. The robotics groups are teams of 2 and will stay the same all week long, while the other groups formed will vary throughout the week. As the “real world” continues to become more team-work oriented, we want to help our students grow in that direction as well. We hope your child gets to work with a variety of students this week and in turn meets some great new friends!

In their words… – Each day we’ll post some excerpts from the students’ evaluations of what they learned each day at the content session.

  • There are many types of ways that engineers help build everyday objects.
  • I learned that planning is very important in building.
  • Wing warping is a technique of controlling airplanes.
  • Nano boxes are used to send data to and from space.
  • How surface area affects sound.
  • The different fields and careers available in engineering.


Conversation Starters… – We know that your child is getting to the age where it might be like pulling teeth to get them to talk about their day beyond “It was fine.” “It was fun.” Each day we’ll post some suggested conversation starters centered on camp activities or STEM-related themes.


  1. What was interesting about Archimedes Principle?
  2. I didn’t realize UK had a space program…could you tell me more about it?
  3. What are these Aerokats I keep hearing about?
  4. I wonder if regular airplane wings can go into outerspace. Hmmm. Or do they need special ones?
  5. How do they do experiments on the International Space Station?
  6. What in the world is happening in the following pictures!?


IMG_1693Photo of the Day… – Each day we’ll post a photo collage highlight. Clicking on the picture will also link to all of the pictures taken at camp. Please note that we try to capture pictures of all of the campers, but we cannot guarantee that we will get every single one. We try our very best too! Also, we are STEM teachers and not full time photographers, so our pictures are not perfect and we leave them unedited, so if you love to edit photos…feel free!

Week 2 STEM Camp




Day 5 – Working towards a sustainable future

IMG_1630On the final day of camp, Dr. Leslie Vincent, from the College of Business, kept the students very busy investigating sustainable solutions and dreaming up big ideas. They had the opportunity to do some team building activities including another bridge building activity, which was a nice extension from what Dr. Jong did with them yesterday. The students were IMG_1583immersed in “design thinking” as they came up with their dream sustainable product.

For the final day in Robotics, the students had mini-competitions…with themselves. Instead of doing a full competition, the students worked on completing the individual challenges for Green City. We saw lots of dams IMG_1662being broken down, smoke stacks being replaced, etc. The students really seemed to enjoy robotics this week and learned a lot.

We took some video today and we’ll try to get it uploaded by Monday at the latest. We really enjoyed this group of campers and we hope that they will consider coming to the See Blue STEM Camp next year!