Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA --
A baseball throw. An obstacle course. Balloon brain drops.
More than 50 Quantico middle and high school students experienced all this and more at the seventh annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camp held recently at Quantico Middle/High School.
The theme of this year’s camp, “STEM in Sports,” involved teaching students about biomechanics, mechanical engineering and physical agility through projects emphasizing sports activities.
“Our goal is to increase our students’ interest, confidence and knowledge of STEM,” said Michael A. Johnson, principal of Quantico Middle/High School. “Students get the chance to learn from teachers, faculty from [the College of] William and Mary and engineers from Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC).”
The STEM Education Alliance—a partnership between the Department of Defense and William and Mary—hosts the annual camp, designed to create opportunities for STEM professionals to mentor in the classroom.
“We understand that not every child will become an engineer,” said Mike Ferraro, engineering competency manager for MCSC and a camp organizer. “But, if we can get students to consider a STEM field, we open doors for more diversity. Having a smart, diverse workforce with expertise in these fields is vital to the mission of the Navy and Marine Corps.”
During one activity, teams used balloons, filled with water, oatmeal, and red dye to simulate the brain and had to develop a structure to protect the “balloon brains” from concussion.
The activity culminated in a competition where students dropped their balloon brains from the ladder of a fire truck supplied by the Quantico Fire Department. Three balloon brains tied for honors, surviving drops up to 21 feet.
The students also participated in a baseball throw, which measured speed, and timed runs through an obstacle course with and without a 10-pound backpack. The mentors measured the students’ reaction time, heart rate and strength and the students used those results to predict which team would win a tug-o-war competition.
“The Quantico STEM Camp is just the right balance of education and fun,” said Jeannette Evans-Morgis, chief engineer of the Marine Corps and deputy to the commander for Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics at MCSC. “This event is something both the students and mentors look forward to year after year. For MCSC, it’s all about planting a seed and growing the next generation of STEM professionals.”