Forty of Canby's upcoming fifth-graders built computers, solar cars, programmable robots and more

COURTESY PHOTO - Participating students built their own computer.

Between the usual summer activities, some Canby kids took the opportunity to engage in summer learning through a special STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) program.

The program, held at Eccles Elementary from July 24 to Aug. 9, brought together incoming fifth-grade students from all over the district, all of whom had applied and even written an essay in order to participate. With 40 kids this year, the program has now doubled in size since its inception in 2016.

Led by district teachers Adam Gingerich, Seth Gingerich and Abbie Perrin, students learned about and built their own computer, learned about and built a programmable robot, learned about and built a solar-powered car, researched and made plans for their STEAM dream (possible career opportunities in the STEAM field), interviewed guest speakers and even took a field trip to DirectLink to learn about the internet and fiber optics (and eat pizza).

"I feel like building the computers was the funnest and programming the robots was the second-funnest," said participant George Vandenbosch. "And I like the solar cars. What I mean by building it is digging into a computer and then pulling everything out. My favorite part was drilling it open. I just wanted to see what was inside and how it worked.

"Programming the robot was fun because, well, you get to see what happens," George continued. "You don't know what's going to happen. You have to fix it if it doesn't work. If it does work, then you can try it."

George said his solar-powered car wasn't as fast as he'd like and he had plans to troubleshoot that later.

Other students throughout the room used similar tactics as George did—exploring, building and problem-solving as they worked on their own projects.

COURTESY PHOTO - Abbie Perrin (right), stops for a photo with students during the summer STEAM program.

"This camp is a great way to show kids that science is all around us, and learning can look like a lot of things," said Perrin, who has taught at Trost Elementary and will teach at Ninety-One School in the upcoming year. "Taking apart and building is what kids do naturally. They are curious about the world around them and now is the time to show them that their interests and ideas are valuable."

In addition to tons of fun and hands-on activities, this year's program leaders also encouraged students to start thinking about potential education and careers.

"We want to show students from all over our community a possible future and pathway into an exciting career in STEAM related fields," said Adam Gingerich, a teacher at Eccles Elementary. "We also want to show students that our own community has a huge need for people with these skills."

COURTESY PHOTO - Adam Gingerich leads a teaching on building a computer.

The STEAM teachers showed the students that the pathway to a successful career doesn't always entail a 4-year degree.

"There's always been this push for: you go to college, you go to college, you go to college," Perrin said. "And that's boloney, because you don't have to go to college. You have to get some sort of training."

So students learned about trade schools, technical education and other alternative routes to STEAM careers.

In the end, the 40 kids put learning into practice, had a ton of fun and ate a few popsicles along the way.

The program is thanks to the nonprofit Bridging Cultures, which focuses on building relationships across cultural and economic boundaries. The organization started in 2000 with a small group of people making lunches and passing them out on Saturdays at Cedar Street and Locust Street. Bridging Cultures has now expanded its programs in several ways, one of which is to support the STEAM program.

Other sponsors of the STEAM program are Clackamas County Technology Services, Ford Family Foundation, Canby Educational Foundation, DirectLink, Canby Kiwanis, Canby School District and Vata Inc.

Kristen Wohlers
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