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STEM&M Camp: Hands-on learning – and fun

Bubbles, rockets, and marbles, oh my!

Students headed outside Thursday on the last day of Mazama’s STEM&M Camp to launch handmade rockets and test bubble wands and marble runs, proving that science and engineering is fun – and an ongoing process.

A STEM&M camper creates a large bubble with the wand she made during the last day of cam

“If you don’t like how your rocket launches today, you can take it home, work on it, and launch it again,” said Laura Nickerson, a Mazama High School science and robotics teacher who organizes and leads the camp. “That’s what engineers do.”

STEM&M campers jump on air-filled plastic bottles to launch their stomp rockets into the air.

Younger students created stomp rockets. Paper rockets are inserted onto one end of a PVC pipe contraption. On the other end is a two-liter plastic bottle. Stomping on the air-filled bottle shoots the paper rocket into the air.

The older students built bottle rockets, a solid science lesson on Newton’s third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (The rockets are filled partially with water and then air is added until the pressure created launches the bottle.)

Other activities included designing wind turbines, working with acid and bases, learning about membranes and discovering properties of water. Students also built rubber band cars, and learned about fingerprint analysis, muscle movement, and soldering.

STEM&M campers work on their rockets and bubble wands before heading outside to test them.

The camp for 2nd– through 8th-graders was free this year as part of the school district’s Launch Into Summer enrichment program. Seventy campers participated, and 18 high school students volunteered as camp counselors. Other enrichment camps include exploring wetlands, art, science, theater, bike safety, and archery.

STEM&M stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. At the annual four-day camp, students spend two hours a day building and creating engineering projects.

Nickerson started the camp in 2015 for elementary school students. In 2019, she expanded the program to include seventh- and eighth-graders. She operates the four-day program with help from fellow science teachers and high school students, who volunteer as camp counselors.

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