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Cub Reporters Cover “Design, Build, Innovate” Summer Camp

This week’s edition is dedicated to the work of high school students from public schools across West Michigan, who attended SNN’s inaugural journalism camp in July, thanks to a grant from Gannett Foundation.

Gears for STEM Begin To Turn at KCTC Design Camp

by Brooks Welch

In the Design Lab of the Kent Career Tech Center, a dozen middle school-aged students peered over glasses and intensely focused on the task at hand: to finish their designs and solar cars. In some areas, there was a silent camaraderie among the more expressive ones, but all showed the same drive needed to complete the day’s activity.

One student in particular, Lee High School freshman Elijah Kibbe, geeked out over all the things he hoped to learn from the four-day “Design, Create, Innovate” camp.

“There’s over, like, a million jobs for it and you can create anything,” Elijah said. “It’s amazing!”

The agenda for the camp was to immerse youngsters in as many aspects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as possible. Day 1 was dedicated to 3-D design and print, the next day followed with HTML coding, then came water quality and green energy solar cars.

Elijah was mostly interested in HTML coding. The origin of his passion, he said, came four years age while he was in the fifth grade at Explorer Elementary School.

“My teacher made his own web site and I was curious about how he did it, so he introduced me to HTML,” Elijah said.

This is exactly what instructors Joseph Phillips and Marcus Deja encourage in their campers.

“It means a lot when the students have a relevant platform to apply their knowledge, and also explore it and further their own,” said Deja, a teacher at Kent Innovation High.

Two more campers were Isaac Grandy, eighth-grader at Pinewood Middle School, and Alex Owens, an aspiring engineer and seventh-grader at Northview. Besides the skills taught, Isaac easily grasped what makes this camp so cool.

“If you get into it at a young age you can advance a lot faster, like, so in the future you can be a lot more ahead of other people that didn’t get the camp,” he said. He summarized the concept as “widening your spectrum.”

The camp’s focus on innovation with a broader mission to leave the students with new life skills is hoped to take them farther than coding or 3D printing.

“Because most jobs won’t have a ‘sit here and press this button every three minutes,’ it’s problem-solving, it’s communication, it’s teamwork, and students need to see and develop that,” Phillips said. “I don’t think it comes easy for every student, but I think it’s essential for every student to be able to use.”

A Dozen More Young Minds to Make the World a Better Place

by Claire Rose

It’s Day 2 at design camp, and students are bustling and hustling to make their own miniature solar-powered cars before lunch arrives to interrupt their fun. They run outside in pairs, holding their mini masterpieces in the hope of seeing them roll all the way across the parking lot and into the grass.

When the instructors announce lunchtime, the campers produce a collective sigh of disappointment at being taken away from their projects.

Who would have thought that for once, lunch wouldn’t be the best part of the day?

From July 11-14, students going into grades seven through nine were invited to the Kent Career Tech Center to participate in a camp of their choice. Options included criminal justice, hospitality and design. The goal was to inspire campers to continue their education in their desired field of work.

“I just love to build and learn and have fun,” said Benjamin “Benny” Eaton, a seventh-grader from Kenowa Hills.

On only the first day of camp, Benny designed an M4 Sherman tank at a pace too fast to be saved by his computer. When it came time to print, all he got was an incomplete clump of plastic.

Despite this setback, Benny pushed on and held hope that the second print would be much more accurate. When his tank was finally printed, for the second time, he just lit up.

Tools of the trade

“It’s magnificent,” he said as he admired his self-made, miniature masterpiece.

These are the moments that instructors Joe Phillips and Marcus Deja hoped to see during the four days they had with the young teens. Phillips and Deja hoped they would come away ready to take on the world and discover innovative ways to solve everyday problems. The students hoped to walk away with a load of knowledge and some cool keepsakes.

On the second day — after a short speech from the instructors on safety precautions — campers were paired up to build miniature solar-powered cars. The instructors only intervened when asked; besides that, the pairs of young minds worked only with one another to create a functioning solar-powered car model.

Most of the young teens stared in awe at their cars rolling across the parking lot, powered only by the light. Others were not satisfied with only creating an average, everyday solar-powered car. Zachary Princer, a seventh-grader at Tri County Schools, was set on perfecting his project.

“This model kills two birds with one stone,” Zach told Deja as he described how the solar panel would not only give the car power, but also be angled to make the car more aerodynamic.

The design camp was full of bright, budding scientists who may one day be thanked for making the world a better place. Campers managed to make sense of complicated projects by working together and letting their minds leave the box that usually confines them.

“It’s about creating the opportunity and letting them go,” said Phillips.

Can Math and Science be Creative? At Design Camp, You Bet!

by Kal-El Montgomery

An industrial classroom full of middle school-age boys, computers, 3-D printers and solar panels: It’s a technology nerd’s dream. Here at the Kent Career Tech Center, students learned about the design of the future during this four-day “Design, Create, Innovate” camp.

The design camp was one of a series held at the tech center to give middle-schoolers exposure to different career paths.

On each day, students worked on different ideas and elements of design, using new technologies such as the 3-D printer to print their computer-generated designs. Students also created solar-powered cars, built free-standing structures made of one sheet of 8-by-11 inch paper, tested water quality and coded on computers.

On Day 1, students were shy and quiet, diligently working on their computers, either looking for inspiration online or designing things they came up with, ranging from keychains and phone cases to an M4 Sherman tank. These creations were then transported in a file and printed on a 3-D printing machine.

Isaac Grandy, a 13-year-old from Pinewood Middle School, was creating a keychain that had the word “Peasant” engraved inside. Grady hoped the camp could help lead him “to a job where I’m not broke.” On a serious note, he said, “It has high demand it pays well, and it’s something fun I like to do”.

On Day 2, newly social and talkative students designed a mini solar-powered car that is completely sustainable, using only the energy that can be taken from the sun. It was a very hands-on project where students had to work together to produce their cars.

Other students signed up for the camp because of their curiosity about different careers in industrial design. Said Alex Owens, a seventh-grader from Northview, “I just want a job in technology.”
Elijah Kibbe, an eighth-grader from Lee Middle and High School, was asked what he hoped to get out of the camp. “Become the next Bill Gates,” he said.

Although the classroom lacked female students, it did not lack creativity or perseverance from the males. One of the biggest things instructors Joe Phillips and Marcus Deja said they wanted to incorporate into the class was independent learning. They didn’t give answers, but would help guide campers to figure out what they had done wrong — ultimately leading them to find the issue and fix it.

Creativity especially buzzed in the room on Day 3, when students were assigned to create a tower made out of a single piece of paper in only a matter of 15 minutes. Student Merrick Susan built the largest tower standing at 94 Inches.

Throughout each day of the camp, students were not only taught how to design and create things of the 21st century. They also were taught how to foster their creativity in a way that could not only help themselves find solutions and develop problem-solving skills, but could also give them exposure to a whole new career.

The camp also highlighted the fact that creativity isn’t just for painting pictures, but can incorporate math and science.

Deja said he wanted to be a part of this camp because, “I wanted to work with younger people and help them explore thinking and learning differently.”

Designing, Creating and Innovating at KCTC Summer Camp

by Katie Todd

The bright and clean workspace, a large industrial room scattered with tables and laptops, is buzzing with activity. A dozen middle school boys mingle amongst themselves and their computers, working hard over virtual objects that will soon become real.

They’re on Day 1 of Kent ISD’s “Design, Create, Innovate” camp, a four-day program exploring modern design. Throughout the week, these middle-schoolers will learn the basics of coding, 3-D print their own designs, test the water at Huff Park and build solar-powered cars. Using Kent Career Tech Center’s own Design Lab, they are learning about technology that might not be available in school, and how it interacts with the environment.

“The camp is fun, being able to build and learn,” says Benjamin Eaton, a sixth-grader from Kenowa Hills. He has been working on his 3-D model of an M4 Sherman tank, a project he said combines his love of math and history. His 3-D printed model was the long awaited product of hard work and some tears, as a snafu caused his design to be lost. Thanks to the encouragement of his teachers, he was able to rebuild his tank.

Student reporters pick the Design Lab instructor's brains
Student reporters pick the Design Lab instructor’s brains

Another camper, Joseph Verplank, worked on a sword, while another, Kipp Deling, built a Tardis box from the TV show “Dr. Who.”

The design was a tricky challenge for these curious students. The hands-on learning atmosphere supported “differentiated learning” — that is, “learning by what works for each student and their individual needs,” said Marcus Deja, one of the camp teachers. Some students are too used to step-by-step instruction, so when asked to design a 3-D object, Deja said, “the question is so open ended, some students don’t know how to answer it.”

But that’s the beauty of this design class, he added. “There’s not a right or wrong answer in design.”
The opportunity for creativity is cornerstone of the camp. Co-teachers Deja, a math teacher at Kent Innovation High, and Joe Phillips, the tech center’s Design Lab teacher, prefer to stay away from procedural learning, choosing instead to “support creativity” with their students, they said.
They work hard together, toiling over their projects, driven by curiosity.

Isaac Grandy, a camper from Pinewood Middle School, said, “It’s like school, but less boring and more fun stuff.”

And that’s exactly how their teachers want it to be. “The best experience is when kids are doing math without knowing they’re doing math,” Deja said.

Zachary Princer, a camper from Tri County Schools, loved the science behind the projects. He said he liked “the math and complex thinking,” required for his solar-powered car. A balsa wood and photovoltaic cell construction was his achievement of the day. The 12-year-old also is a member of Tri County High School’s Odyssey of the Mind team.

“I’ve always had an interest in mechanics and math,” he said. For him, the camp appeared to be a perfect opportunity to express his creativity and curiosity.

The melding of energies hatched an environment that valued growth and teamwork, lessons that could go beyond just the camp or the classroom.

“Successful companies value communication and persistence on open-ended questions” — which is exactly what the camp encourages, says Deja. The young campers will walk away after their week of design with not only an interest in the field, but as Deja puts it, with “confidence about solving problems.”

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