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This screen-capture shows a student discussing a weather station lesson at the Virtual STEM Camp in August (photo courtesy of Ohio University).
This screen-capture shows a student discussing a weather station lesson at the Virtual STEM Camp in August (photo courtesy of Ohio University).

ATHENS, Ohio – A virtual science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) camp supported by a grant from EM was conducted recently by Ohio University to educate youth in the region that includes the Portsmouth Site.

From watersheds to renewable energy to smart technologies, students participated in four days of free online sessions funded by the university’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, an EM Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) PORTSfuture grant, and the American Electric Power Foundation.

During the camp, university instructors hosted live presentations and discussions to recreate in-person camp in an online setting. Ohio University has sponsored in-person STEM camps for grades 6-10 over the last two years.

This year’s camp included topics such as water, watersheds, water quality, sampling, and stream biology and health; energy, renewable energy, solar ovens, and energy audits; and smart technologies and coding basics.

The “campers” were mailed boxes of materials to enable hands-on learning. The boxes included a watershed map, pH testing strips, supplies for a make-at-home solar oven, guidebooks, games, and other items.

“The virtual STEM camp provided an engaging and safe opportunity for camp participants to explore environmental science, technology, and energy use at home,” said Jen Bowman, director of environmental programs at the Voinovich School. “Campers were also provided stream sampling tools and encouraged to explore streams in their backyard, neighborhood, or park.”

Information was shared through a data platform called “My Backyard Stream” on watersheddata.com, managed by the university. Participants also conducted a home energy audit, reflected on their personal energy use, and learned how computer programming is used to control drones and other smart devices.

One of PPPO’s many southern Ohio outreach efforts, PORTSfuture-supported STEM programs are intended to prepare youth to understand and appreciate data and science-based information, enhance their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and prepare for future educational and career opportunities.

“STEM education provides a strong basis for how we can protect the environment, deal with disease, and improve society,” said PPPO’s Richard Bonczek, who oversees the PORTSfuture grant for EM.

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