Two girls huddled around a small white and grey robot and a Google Chromebook. One typed in commands while the other positioned the robot at the edge of the table. With the push of a button, the robot moved forward.
The big smiles that had spread across their faces quickly turned to looks of terror as the robot they programed headed for the table’s edge. They lunged for it, hitting the robot’s reset button just seconds before disaster.
The girls stood frozen, staring at their runaway bot, before breaking into laughter. Crisis averted. They went back to their computer to make adjustments.
Programming robots is not how most students spend their summers; but for students at the Empowering Excellence Through Exploration (E3) Camp it’s just another Wednesday, playing and creating with technology and experiments meant to introduce them to the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Founded in 2018, E3 camp was created to introduce students of color in middle and high school to STEM fields through hands-on learning, presentations and field trips.
“I just didn't see anything engaging for our African American students," camp co-founder and director Anissa McLendon said about programs and opportunities through Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. "I'm always looking for ways that we can work on the achievement gap."
Each day of the three-week camp is packed with activities, from flying drones with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to creating characters with local author Kelly Starling Lyons.
The camp, which is held at Glenwood Elementary School, had a local focus with many of the presenters being local companies and government entities. The Chapel Hill Fire Department spent the day with the camp on Thursday, July 18, and the Chapel Hill Police Department is scheduled to run a forensics lab with the students.
While experiments are a fun way to introduce E3 campers to different scientific fields, both the students and camp leaders agreed that the field trips are some of the best parts of camp.