Teens get a taste of college life
Summer camp » Junior and senior high students pick a topic of study.
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Natalie Dicou
Students didn't have to wait to graduate high school to get a taste of college life at Westminster College recently.
Thanks to the Salt Lake City school's College Experience camps, high school students enjoyed a higher-education experience adventure without the stress of impending finals.
They spent the week sleeping in dorms and eating at Westminster's dining hall.
"The cafeteria food was mediocore -- not horrible," said Alta High 10th grader Taylor Hodson. "The beds were fine."
The aspiring college kids had their pick of several camps, including ones focusing on robotics, writing, money, aviation and a camp based at the Great Salt Lake where students collected samples and paddle-surfed.
"The experience is probably more important than what they're doing here [educationally]," said Westminster professor Greg Gagne, who led the robotics camp. "I think these kids will be much better prepared."
The camps were open to junior high and high school students. Younger participants went home at night.
At robotics camp, students learned to build and program computers. The week culminated with a series of competitions in which campers programmed their machines to navigate through a course that ended with a tunnel.
Only a few managed to enter the tunnel unscathed, but when they did, the youngsters jumped up and down and hugged. Fellow campers offered their congratulations.
The teens built the robots from VEX kits, which are like an erector set with a robot controller.
Teams of two put individual touches on their robots. One group added paper wings. Another gave its robot a scorpion tail.
Spending a week with students who are enthusiastic about robotics was a treat for Gagne.
His favorite part was "just being able to work with young, smart motivated kids."
"They want to learn; they want to succeed," Gagne said. "It makes you pretty hopeful for the next generation."
One of the successful robots was "Dumbbot," built by Timpanogos High's Raymond Quiroz and Emily Mehregan, visiting from Michigan, who lept for joy when their creation entered the tunnel.
"It's still a dumb (ro)bot though," Mehregan said.
Another efficient team was Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School fifth grader Jonathan Villareal and Evergreen Junior High seventh grader Will Tesseyman, who established their strengths and worked accordingly.
"I'm good at fixing [the robot] when it's broken," said Tesseyman, who prefers working with his hands. "He's good at programming."
Added Villareal "He will take everything out, replace the batteries and everything while I program."
Teamwork and learning to live with a roommate may be the most valuable lesson of the week, Gagne said.