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Lakewood Ranch students rise to STEM camp challenges

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Summer STEM camp brings new experiences for migrant students at Nolan Middle School.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Noel Lopez, a rising eighth grader at R. Dan Nolan Middle School, picked up a yellow controller and pressed a button. 

He watched as his chair swing carnival ride went into motion. He smiled as he watched the red squares, which represented chairs on the model, fly in a circle.

After deciding to make a swing ride using an Engineering Pathways STEM Lab kit, Lopez was able to make his design come to life within a few hours during a STEM-based summer camp for migrant students June 16. 

The camp, which started June 2 and runs through June 30, tasks students with different activities that tests what they have learned in engineering, technology and math. They also look at their projects from a business perspective, meaning how they could sell what they create. 

“We’re going through all those steps that make them think a little more about how engineering results in real-world applications,” said Jason Troop, the camp advisor and tutor for the School District of Manatee County's Migrant Education Program

Campers spent time building small cars to compete against each other, constructing catapults to try to fling items into a basket, and assembling fair rides using a STEM kit.

“I keep throwing them challenges, and they keep meeting them,” Troop said.

Miqueas Millan, a rising seventh grader, said his favorite activity was building a rollercoaster. He spent the afternoon of June 15 designing and beginning to construct his rollercoaster and finished it June 16. 

Noel Lopez, a rising eighth grader, shows off his version of a swing ride.

“It looks cool, and it was kind of easy to build,” Millan said. 

Selia Rodriguez, a rising eighth grader, said she loved building a bridge that linked two tables together and had no support beams. The structure had to withstand a weight challenge when she was done.

Troop said the summer program gives students opportunities they might not have otherwise.

In past years, students have been on field trips to Mote Marine, the Manatee County courthouse and Sarsaota's Ken Thompson Park for dip netting. 

The pandemic has forced the camp to remain on the school campus and has impacted the number of students who are able to participate. 

Troop said the camp usually has about 30 students participating, but about two thirds of those students are in summer school as a result of falling behind during the school year due to the pandemic. 

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