STEM campers get hands-on experience in various careers

John Irwin news@echo-pilot.com
Allie Welsh, a homeschool student from Greencastle, sat in the cab of a Manitowoc crane last week while on a field trip with Penn State Mont Alto’s STEM camp. JOHN IRWIN/ECHO PILOT

Manitowoc Cranes in Shady Grove opened its doors to welcome local high school students participating in Penn State Mont Alto’s weeklong STEM camp last Wednesday.

The annual STEM camp provides incoming ninth- and 10th-graders opportunities to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through hands-on activities facilitated by university faculty.

During the day camp, students challenge other teams in Lego robotics competitions, explore the world of chemistry, test their flying skills with Quad Copter X5 drones, get up close and personal with computers and more.

Wednesday’s field trip to Manitowoc gave the students a first-hand look of what goes on at the manufacturer. Daniel Smit of Waynesboro was among the 21 students in attendance.

“I could do something like this,” said Smit, looking back at a crane simulator he had just operated. “I’m pretty good with machinery. This is fairly simple to me.”

Smit, an incoming freshman at the Waynesboro Area Senior High School, hopes to have a career in electronics and said that Wednesday’s field trip was, “a excellent stop” during the weeklong camp.

Helen McGarry, director of continuing education at Penn State Mont Alto, shared her thoughts on the impact the camp has on its students.

“This is a truly unique experience for tech-savvy teens who want to immerse themselves in all things STEM while interacting with like-minded campers,” said McGarry. “They are engaged in the sessions and are asking great questions. They are very bright. I think that many of them will go into careers in STEM areas.”

In addition to Manitowoc, students also gained knowledge visiting the state-of-the-art Pennsylvania Research and Teaching Laboratory for Biofuels at Penn State Harrisburg to learn DNA profiling techniques.

“I really like biology, it’s interesting to me,” said Allie Welsh, a homeschool student from Greencastle who aspires to be a forensic scientist. “I enjoyed the lab and learning about DNA and crime scenes investigations.”