2019 Summer STEAM Camps for Middle School Students at St. Thomas Aquinas College

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By Barry Warner

STEAM summer camps are designed to teach science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics to students in a fun and engaging way. These activities will enable campers to have a meaningful introduction to some of the fundamental principles of science and engineering, improve their critical and computational thinking abilities and advance their teamwork skills by collaborating with their fellow campers to create solutions.

“We are viewing two camps today from our summer program for middle school students that includes the Emerging Technologies Camp where the participants are working on drones and robots plus virtual reality and the Forensic Science Camp where youngsters will investigate and analyze evidence from a mock crime scene,” said Dr. Suzanne Reynolds, St. Thomas Aquinas College Assistant Dean and Summer Camp Director.

“We are working with Parrot drones that have three cameras, one in the front, one in the back and one in the middle that are taking pictures and are controlled by an app in the student’s cell phones to send commands to the drone to take off and land,” Dr. Robert Vermilyer, Professor of Computer Science, told the Rockland County Times. “When the students go back to the lab, they will upload their videos and photos through a USB port. For the Virtual Reality (VR) course, some of the students put on headsets and may play games, do tutorials and build their own VR world on computers using a UNITY 3D program. Robo-Recall is a VR game that kids can play where the main objective is to remove defective robots from circulation. Robots are being built using activitybot360 with a BlocklyProp program to assemble the robots and wire up its motors and encoders.”

“In the Forensic course, the students did shoe castings and you can see the treads of their shoes,” said Dr. Clara Toth, Professor of Biology. “They are going to clean them, and right now they are looking at animation on blood spatter to see how blood changes shape from different heights. They are going to spread out newspaper and examine ‘fake blood’ with rulers and wait for it to dry to do measurements on it. Everything in a crime scene is potential evidence. We have the students sketch the crime scene and as we bring in evidence from the crime scene, they are putting it in their presentations so they can provide the results of their conclusions and determine who the ‘killer’ was. I answer questions from the students as they are trying to narrow down who committed the murder. We do use sheep’s blood to run once an actual test done in the field by forensic scientists. We keep the students safe.”

“The Summer Camp program has been amazing ever since we partnered with Orange and Rockland (O&R),” said Linda LoRe, St. Thomas Aquinas College’s Director of Development. “I can’t thank them enough. We are going into our second two-year cycle with them. With their support, we have been able to set up a number of camps. We started out with forensics and now we have robotics and went from STEM to STEAM. It’s built such a reputation that we have people calling us to come back. It has been an amazing journey as O&R has been open to many innovations and they want to be told more about them.”

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones are multi-rotor, remote controlled flying devices. ‘Camera drones’ are drones equipped with cameras. ‘Camera drones’ push the limits of how the world is perceived, offering new possibilities for filming, photography, inspection, surveying and mapping.
Forensic science uses many different scientific methods to look at evidence, solve crimes and resolve other issues dealing with the law. Forensic scientists also help explain scientific findings to judges, lawyers and people on juries. Forensic science uses methods from different branches of science including biology, chemistry and physics to help investigate and understand the evidence. Evidence contains items or facts presented in court to show the truth about what happened in a situation. Some of the evidence that forensic scientists look at to figure out what really happened include: fingerprints, footprints, blood, hair, tire tracks, fibers from material, handwriting, bullets, glass shards, soil, liquid and how it splattered, chemicals and DNA.

O&R has donated $50,000 to St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) to help fund this program over the next two years. They also donated $50,000 to support the program through 2017 and 2018.