STEPS Camp Celebrates 20 Years of Inspiring Youth
August 30, 2021
GVSU's Science, Technology, and Engineering Preview Summer (STEPS) Camp celebrated its 20th year of inspiring youth to consider careers in STEM this summer. To date, more than 1,600 middle school students have participated in the camp, which introduces exciting STEM concepts through the theme of aviation.
“It’s really amazing to think about the number of students we’ve reached over the years,” said Sara Maas, PCEC Outreach Coordinator. “Several of the campers have gone on to careers in aviation specifically, and many more have pursued STEM careers. We often hear from campers that they are participating at the recommendation of past campers who are family or friends, so we know that the camp is having a positive impact.”
Two weeks of STEPS Camp were offered this summer. The first was hosted at the Battle Creek STEM Center and the second at the GVSU Innovation Design Center in Grand Rapids. Due to Covid, this year's STEPS campers had the option of participating in a fully remote or face-to-face format, with nearly 85% of campers electing to participate in person. An experienced teacher and long-time STEPS volunteer facilitated the remote camp, livestreaming to campers participating from home. In-person campers were led by eight GVSU students from engineering, education, and pre-professional majors who served as counselors for the campers. This near-peer interaction is wonderful for the campers as they are discerning what kinds of elective classes they may want to take in middle school and high school.
Sara Maas, PCEC Outreach Coordinator, modified the STEPS curriculum to include more individual projects that did not require sharing of equipment and tools. Students in both formats received a kit of materials that was curated to provide for hands-on laboratories, experiments, and projects to supplement instruction. Some examples of projects completed by students include construction of a model airplane, CAD classes with 3D printing, building of a catapult, competing paper airplanes, and building a robot inchworm.
STEPS funding comes from NASA Michigan Space Grant Consortium, Arconic Whitehall Operations, Bosch, Cascade Engineering, GE, Gentex, Howmet Aerospace Foundation, Parker Hannifin, West Michigan Aviation Academy, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.