Local students got a head start on the future by learning about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics during STEM Camp at Penn State Mont Alto last week.

The incoming ninth- and 10-graders from Chambersburg, Greencastle, Waynesboro, Mercersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle and Gettysburg participated in hands-on activities facilitated by university faculty.

On Wednesday, they visited Manitowoc Cranes in Shady Grove, where they got to see technology in action.

David Peiffer, engineering manager for software control systems at Manitowoc, said collaborating with Penn State Mont Alto’s STEM Camp is a perfect fit.

 “We’re always looking for the best and most talented technical people that we can find, and this is a perfect opportunity to let these STEM-focused students know that there are employment opportunities for them right here in their own backyard,” he said.

Spencer Woodring, a freshman at Greencastle-Antrim High School, was one of 27 students participating in the STEM camp this year. The visit to Manitowoc was just another stepping stone for Woodring, who has shown an interest in mechanics since a young age.

“I really like old cars, taking them apart, cleaning and building it back up,” Woodring said. “The camp has been good, they have had a lot of hands-on activities and material for you to learn.

“My favorite part so far has been Manitowoc, because I really like building and engineering,” he said during the visit to Shady Grove.

“We’re trying to encourage them to stay on the track of technical education, engineering and support staff so we can bring those (individuals) into our company when they come out of school,” Peiffer said. “We need that next generation to build our next cranes and new designs.”

In addition to the visit to Manitowoc, students performed state-of-the-art DNA profiling, challenged other teams in a robotics competition, investigated the world of microbiology, designed a virtual, weight-bearing bridge using engineering principles, flew drones and more.

Director of Continuing Education Helen McGarry said STEM Camp is a wonderful way to explore careers.

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for students with a love of science and technology to immerse themselves in a STEM-filled week of fun and educational learning,” McGarry said.

She has been with the program since its inception a year ago and has seen the impact the it can have on its students.

“Some of the ninth- and 10th-graders have a pretty good idea of what they want to do, and some of them don’t,” she added. “We like to tell them by the end of the week maybe they will have narrowed down the field that they want to go into or maybe they learned what they don’t want to do, and that is good learning as well and worth your time.”