Share Tweet Share Email

NIU STEM camps: creative exploration, cutting-edge skills, career prep

May 6, 2014

Photo of boys looking at a model roller coasterSummer is just around the corner.

What are your young Einsteins going to do to keep their minds engaged?

This June, July and August, NIU STEM Outreach and other STEM departments are offering more camp experiences than ever before.

Whether students want to learn how roller coasters work, design their own video games, create scientifically inspired works of art or prevent future wars between humans and robots, NIU’s day and residential STEM camps will stimulate campers with widely varied interests.

“We’re very excited to offer new and engaging ways for campers to experience science, technology, engineering, and math,” says STEM Outreach Director Pati Sievert. “These camps are all about hands-on, problem-based learning. We go way beyond the text book to introduce students to the creative and innovative world of STEM concepts and careers.”

In addition to popular camps such as Engineering Amusement for middle school students and the STEM Career Explorations Camp for high school students, a variety of new programs are available. In Argue Like a Scientist Camp, American students will work together with visiting Taiwanese middle school students to explore alternative energy and green technologies.

The Exploring STEM Camp also will offer a new chemistry track for middle school campers this July.

Photo of a girl looking into a microscopeAnother new addition to this year’s STEM Camp line up is STEM Read’s Preventing the Robopocalypse Camp.

In this interdisciplinary camp, high school students will use Daniel H. Wilson’s best-selling novel “Robopocalypse” as the basis to explore robotics, art and design, creative writing, and more. Special guest author Wilson and NIU’s David Gunkel (“The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics”) will visit the camp and discuss their work with campers.

The Digital Convergence Lab is also hosting several day camps where students can explore both the technical and creative side of game design. The DCL staff will guide students in animation, virtual worlds, character design, story development, logic and even sound effects as they create their games.

This year campers will also get to experience the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset designed to immerse players in a 3D gaming experience. The DCL currently has a team of NIU students developing an application for this cutting-edge virtual device.

The Oculus Rift, which campers can work with during video game design camps, promises to usher in the next generation of virtual reality game play.

Eric Russell, one of the video games camp instructors, hopes that working with the software will demystify games and give students a firsthand understanding of the ways that many of their favorite games are made. Russell, who specializes in 3D modeling, animation and virtual reality, has taught games labs for several years.

“Most of the game camps focus on creating 2D games, which are a great way to learn the basics of game design, whereas the virtual worlds camp and the advanced camp, focuses on 3D game development, which is intrinsically more complex.”

Organizers say that these camps offer “hard fun” to keep students actively engaged in learning throughout the summer.

Photo of a boy painting a leafFor additional information, check out the camp listings below or register online.