Students Learn STEM Concepts at UWF’s Discovery Spot Camp

Pensacola –  Students conferred with each other, asked questions and looked at a three-dimensional rendering of the Starship Enterprise as a model to create their own spacecraft during Tuesday morning’s Discovery Spot camp.

Lakshmi Prayaga, associate professor at UWF helps students using 123D Design during the Discovery Spot camp.
Dr. Lakshmi Prayaga helps students using 123D Design during the Discovery Spot camp at UWF.

“Discovery Spot is a technology rich playground that provides an innovative space for students in grades 5-12 to experience state of the art technology in various STEM disciplines,” said Dr. Lakshmi Prayaga, associate professor of information engineering technology and networking and communications in the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of West Florida.The goal of the project is to maximize the use of technology as a hook to pique the curiosity of students in STEM.”

Nolan Basel, 13, of Thomas L. Sims Middle School in Pace, discussed a cone vs. dome shape for his spaceship, as he considered how to eliminate drag during flight. He also debated where to mount weapons before deciding on a color for his ship: titanium.

“This … is a place to let kids’ curiosity rule their design and ideas,” Prayaga, said.

Prayaga led the Discovery Spot session with the help of six undergraduates who served as mentors to the more than 30 middle- and high-school students in the camp. To create their spaceships, the campers used a 3-D software printing program called 123D Design.

Besides 3-D modeling, participants got experience doing animation, gaming, robotics and developing mobile apps.

Sami Humeda, 14, and Dillon Dissanayake, 14, use 123D Design during the Discovery Spot camp at the University of West Florida.
Sami Humeda, 14, and Dillon Dissanayake, 14, use 123D design during the Discovery Spot camp. 

Prayaga said the stated goals of the camp are to:

  • Prepare students with workforce ready skills that use core cognates from their formal education.
  • Engage students with a technology rich learning environment that calls for higher order thinking skills such as analysis, application, and creativity.
  • Promote both technical content related skills and other soft skills such as collaboration and communication, which are critical to success.

Sami Humeda, 14, attended the camp and described it as “extremely helpful.”  Humeda will be a freshman at Pensacola High School in the fall and wants to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon.

“To know how machines work gives you an advantage in the work place,” he said. “I came here because I want to learn about programming and coding. Plus, it’s fun.”

Prayaga said she knows the camp is successful because campers returned this year after last year’s inaugural session, and parents ask for resources to help kids continue the learning and projects they begin at the camp.

“Our goal is to do some online and after-school programming, perhaps starting in the fall or the spring.” Prayaga said.

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