STEM camps sprout in popularity



MILTON, Ga. — “His organs are trying to come out,” said Karina Naik about her brother, Rayan.

Both of them were in full zombie makeup at Cambridge High School on June 19.

When thinking about summer camp, most people think of sleeping in tents, roasting marshmallows for s’mores and trying to beat the mosquitos.

That’s not the experience of campers at Southern Educational Resources’ day camps, where students learn anything from fine arts to how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

There are many day camps that focus on sports and the arts, but this season has seen the rise of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) summer camps in the area. Camps vary from Lego engineering to Creative Career Academy’s video game design and computer application development programs.

Dianne Nicholas, of High Touch High Tech with camps in Cumming and Roswell, said elementary schools are excited about STEM.

“STEM is a big push right now,” Nicholas said.

If writing, robotics or art is more of a student’s interest, Southern Educational, or Cambridge Camps, in Milton offers these summer camp programs.

“CSI and criminal justice stuff was super, super popular,” said Tom Washburn, founder and president of Southern Educational.

Washburn also teaches criminal justice at Cambridge High School.

“In July, we’re doing the pre-engineering camp where they’re going to learn how to make rockets from scratch and make launching platforms from scratch,” Washburn said.

That’s not all of the unusual summer programs Southern Educational has offered.

This year, they debuted a zombie apocalypse survival camp that ran in mid-June and reopens in July.

“[Zombie camp] completely started out as a joke,” Washburn said.

But after doing some research, they started to take the idea more seriously. With resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Emergency Management Agency, they were able to assemble a curriculum.

“We’ve talked about virology, bacterial and viral infections, swine flu and Spanish flu. They’ve learned about first aid and disaster medical operations. They’ve learned about search and rescue,” he said. “There’s actually some learning going on.”

Not all that learning is blood-and-guts. Some is more fun-and-games.

Play Well TEKnologies offers Lego-based pre-engineering camps. The camp first launched in Forsyth County last summer. This year, they also started a Johns Creek camp. Play Well teaches children ages 5 to 12 engineering concepts through Lego projects.

“We do anything from showing them how to build moving Lego trucks using belt and pulleys and gear motors to building towers that reach from the floors to the ceiling, “ said Chris Wilkerson, the Atlanta area manager for Play Well. “They’re building things that are taller than they are.

“Programs of this type are more in demand now,” Wilkerson said. “They’ll continue to be in demand for a long time.”


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