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!


Day 4 – What’s Math Got to do with it?

IMG_1527Today the campers got down and dirty with marshmallows, toothpicks, and paper in order to explore three-dimensional geometry. Dr. Cindy Jong, from the Dept of STEM Education challenged the students to see mathematics in everyday life through a bridge activity and then furthered the exploration with origami. The students were so excited they even worked through lunch on their origami figures!

IMG_1570In robotics, the students continued with their Green City Challenges. Today they focused on starting the windmill, placing a solar panel on a rooftop, and tearing down a dirty smoke stack and replacing it with a clean one.

The campers have really settled into their routines nicely! It’s hard to believe we only have one day left!! We did a better job of taking pictures today so click here to see the new additions!


Day 3 Got flies?

Day 3 brought a very nice follow-up to Day 2’s brain activities! The students got to go over to the biology laboratory with Dr. Robin Cooper from the College of Arts and Sciences to explore animal behavior and sensory systems. They experimented with the five senses using fruit flies – looking at how they function in various conditions. The students collected data on mouth movements of the larvae and other data regarding the sense using the lab microscopes. They also completed experiments involving their own neurobiology and the five senses.

In robotics the students have started the Green City Challenge.  This started with trying to block the dam of the city. On Thursday they will continue with windmills, solar panels, etc. The kids are really excited about the challenges and have really enjoyed programming and testing their programs – it’s great to see the engineering practices at work!

Did you know that the See Blue STEM Camp not only benefits your student, but students of UK as well? We are very fortunate this year to have graduate students from STEM Education, Engineering, and Biology help out with the presentations. They are learning a lot about working with adolescents as well as sharpening their presentation skills. We also have a few preservice mathematics teachers helping us out this week and next week; they have gained invaluable hands-on experiences in working with middle school students!

Click below for updated pictures

STEM Camp pics