Local students inspired by STEM Camp at Roane State

Annabelle Payne uses a laptop and coding to create an animated version of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale during STEM Camp at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY – Roane State’s Cumberland County campus was buzzing with high-tech experiments this summer as the community college hosted a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Camp for 32 middle school-aged students.

Lillian Carrier, a seventh-grader at Crab Orchard Elementary, displays a box with her initials that she made during the three-week STEM Camp at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus.

It marked the fifth summer that the Verizon Foundation has funded the three-week camp at the campus. This session had some new additions. It was previously for middle school girls only when it was launched in 2016, but several boys participated this time.

A.I., or Artificial Intelligence, and robotics were also added as topics, said Holly Hanson, Director of Roane State’s campus in Crossville. She has overseen the STEM camp each summer.

When the first session was held, Roane State was the only community college in Tennessee to host the camp, launched by the foundation to encourage girls to consider STEM careers. This year’s event attracted youngsters from White, Fentress and Cumberland counties as well as residents from out of state who were visiting. Several home-schooled students participated.

“I like learning about all of the technology and how it works,” said Annabelle Payne, a homeschooled camper who used a computer and coding to create her animated version of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. 

“Coding is easy once you get used to it,” said Maddy Young of the method of communicating with a computer. She is a seventh-grader at Crab Orchard Elementary. It was her second STEM Camp. The pandemic shuttered the planned session last summer.

In another of the four Roane State classrooms used for camp sessions, Lillian Carrier, also a Crab Orchard Elementary student, proudly displayed the plastic box bearing her initials that she created using a 3D printer.

Across the hallway, Dani Hessler, a South Cumberland Elementary student, along with Crab Orchard Elementary camper Sara Maciejewski, programmed a special vehicle equipped with sensors. Each time the four-wheel-drive robot stopped on a colored square, its headlights matched the color.

“I’ve liked every class,” Sara said. “It’s so interesting.” 

Dani Hessler, left, and Sara Maciejewski operate a robotic vehicle they programed so its headlights change color during the STEM Camp at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus.

The camp also included a field trip, and participants were given breakfast and lunch. Campers are now honing their new skills in technology back on campus one Saturday each month for the next several months, Hanson said.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554. Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.

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