Youth Innovators Supercharged To Take On STEM

School of Computing and Engineering Expands Access to STEM Through Summer Camps
A group of campers creates art with DIY robots

What happens when 57 curious kindergarten through sixth grade students visit campus for one week? They turn their curiosity into innovation. At least that's what happened this summer when children from across the Greater Kansas City area spent a week at UMKC participating in a new day camp experience, Camp Invention, at the School of Computing and Engineering.

An extension of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Virginia, Camp Invention is a national program designed to keep kids engaged and help them build skills for the future. Throughout the week, these junior inventors work through activities that help them see ideas through from concept to creation while learning problem-solving collaboration, creativity and, of course, STEM. The theme for this year was “Supercharged.”

“This year, through our partnership with Google Fiber, we were able to provide scholarships for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to attend the camp,” said assistant dean Marjory Eisenman. That also helped to diversify the group and ensure that all kids were welcome to participate without having to worry about cost.


classroom instructor holding handmade boat standing and talking to student 

“We had to make things to throw hay into a box!” said Elise, explaining her favorite activity of the week.

Campers took on four challenges during camp that allowed them to use their imagination for creative problem solving:

Farm Tech: Children manage their own farm as they learn the basics of running a business.

Deep Sea Mystery: Using lessons and advice from Hall of Fame Inductees, children work in teams to invent island-survival tools and underwater equipment and navigate their way back home.

Innovation Force: children create a device to retrieve the stolen ideas, they learn about the importance of collaboration and patents.

DIY Orbot: Children explore frequency, circuit boards, motors and gears as they use real tools to reverse engineer a remote-controlled DIY Orbot, which is the students’ personalized version of a small bot.

The 57 campers were led through the activities by a combination of local teachers, SCE students and seventh- through ninth-grade youth who served as classroom instructors, interns and leaders in training.

“Getting students to help out with the camp sells the kids on UMKC or, at the very least, studying STEM,” said Eisenman.

High school student focuses while hovered over working with 3D printing macine

Camp Invention is just one way the SCE works to expand access to STEM. The school also hosted a biomechanical camp for high school students this summer and worked with 15 students on measuring the force of impacts on the musculoskeletal system, operating the school’s motion capture lab and high-tech equipment for 3D printing and bone analysis.

SCE also offers year-round youth activities through its affiliate organization KC STEM Alliance, a collaborative network of educators, business partners and organizations that inspires interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers to generate a robust workforce of related professionals for our community.

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Published: Jul 18, 2019

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