By Mark G. McLaughlin
Summer camps do not have to be only about hiking in the woods, canoeing on the lake and making crafts. Kids of all ages can now enjoy camps that allow them to explore the arts and sciences, experience what it is like to be an astronaut, or learn about the principles of robotics. Many of these camps are held on college campuses and include both day and residential options. Some are aimed at children as young as four while others are designed for elementary, middle and high school students. Here are just five of the country’s best engineering camps for kids.
Engineering for Kids of Beach Cities LA
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Engineering for Kids has camps on both coasts and all over the country. Most are a short drive from a major city. There are several in California, including in Los Angeles itself, but one of the most enjoyable is that in Redondo Beach. Why? Because in the summer, what kid doesn’t want to be near a beach? Engineering for Kids, of course, also provides a solid educational experience and one that is both challenging and fun. They offer hands-on experiences in more than a dozen engineering disciplines, with three levels for people aged 4 to 14. Engineering for Kids runs camps and programs year round and supports the STEM (now STEAM) initiative. They have also partnered with the Pump it Up organization to provide a combination of more traditional summer camp activities along with engineering workshops at some of their sites.
ID Tech Stanford
450 Serra Mall
Palo Alto, CA 94305
ID Tech is another organization that supports and sponsors engineering summer camps for kids. ID Tech has camps on college and university campuses in 28 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Hong Kong, Singapore and throughout the United Kingdom. One of the most famous and most prestigious is that at Stanford University in Palo Alto. ID Tech boasts that it is the “#1 STEM educator” in the world, and with its presence on and support from so many centers of higher learning, that is not a hollow claim.
Jedi-Engineering with LEGO Materials
Old Stone House
336 Third Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
For more than 20 years the California-based Play-Well organization has been sponsoring and supporting educational camps and programs for children of all ages. They have more than 2,000 programs in cities all over the country. One of the most delightful, creative and engaging is their Lego-Inspired Engineering Camps for Kids K-8 program. Parents can find camps which offer these programs through their site. Among them, for example, is a delightful Jedi-Engineering program in Brooklyn, NY. Children as young as 5 are introduced to the principles of engineering by building with LEGOs from the Star Wars collection.
Duke University Bio-Sciences and Engineering Camp for Middle School
8 East Union Drive
201 Bishop’s House
Durham, NC 27708
While many engineering summer camps focus on younger children, that at Duke University is exclusively for those in middle school. As such it focuses more on academics than fun – although with plenty of that, too, to better keep the students engaged. The instructors are professional educators and engineers, and the children are supervised by undergraduate and graduate students. There are programs for both residential and day campers. Both attend the same classes and work in the same labs during the day, but there are additional afternoon and evening activities for residential campers.
NSLC Summer Engineering Program
New Haven, CT 06520
The National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) sponsors summer engineering programs for high school students at numerous locations across the country. There are camps at Rice University in Houston, Northwestern in Chicago, American University in Washington, D.C., Berkeley in San Francisco, Georgia Tech and Yale. The camp at Yale in New Haven, for example, offers nine days of lectures, hands-on lab work and off-site visits, along with challenges to accomplish, an engineering info – and an ice cream social. Many of the NSLC programs also offer college credits.