Student-run STEAM camp introduces local youth to career and technical education

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Brandon Goy, 14, learns beginner programming skills.For one week this summer, local middle school students were introduced to the world of robotics, beginner-level computer programming, mechanical design, 3D printing and more — by their older peers.

From July 22-26 and again the following week, West Linn and Wilsonville middle school students could sign up for either of the week-long, student-run, career and technical education camps at West Linn High School.

Each day, WLHS robotics students taught one of the four hour-long classes that included topics about drones, virtual reality, coding and computer programming, and computer-aided design.

"These students are about to go into high school and the high school has a really broad career and technical education program. Our robotics team is really strong right now. We have great graphic design and animation; we have a lot of computer design," said incoming WLHS junior Amanda Hioe, business lead and one of the camp organizers. "They (the middle schoolers) get a chance to 3D print and use our new laser cutter."

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL - Campers learn how to code these mini FIRST Robotics Competition bots.Community members who work in science, technology, engineering, art and math industries were also invited to attend and give presentations.

"We had an evidence officer from Clackamas County come in and do fingerprinting," said WLHS FIRST Robotics Competition coach Timothy Manes. "We had someone from Mentor Graphics come in and talk about software and how to use software."

The camp started last summer, after the high school received a $422,715 Career and Technical Education Revitalization Grant from the Oregon Department of Education in 2017. A portion of that grant was allocated to a technology-based summer camp program for incoming seventh, eighth and ninth graders that teaches students career and technical education skills.

But the students learning the skills are only part of the equation.

The camp is almost solely student-run, aside from two instructors. Robotics students decided on the curriculum and volunteered to either teach a class or walk around to the different stations and help campers.

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Colby Bean, 13, works on a mechanical design project.That's one of Manes' favorite aspects of the camp: the leadership opportunities for students.

"There's little organization from me. (I'm) just making sure we make our deadlines (and) when we say we're going to say something, we do it," Manes said. "I think it becomes more valuable to them as leaders (by) having ownership."

Azure Malley-Porter, a 16-year-old who taught the drone class and helped organize the camp, is one of the WLHS students who is taking advantage of the school district's new internship opportunity with the camp. Students qualify for internship credit if they volunteered at least 30 hours during the camp.

"I think it's a good leadership opportunity because our school, it seems a lot of our leadership opportunities are surrounded by sports and (other) activities," Malley-Porter said. "The robotics goal is to spread STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to our community and if you see some of these kids when they are participating in these activities, we can see their eyes light up. I think that's really important and I think it's good to spread not only just sports to the kids of West Linn, but also these different science fields and show them how it can translate to the real world."

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Claire Davey, 16, is one of the camp counselors helping students with a mechanical design project.Manes said that although there are no grant funds to run the camp next year, the robotics team will still take ownership of the camp and offer it for free or for a fee, depending on funds raised. Next year, Manes wants to find journalism, photography and graphic design students who will teach a class as well.

"It's this opportunity to grow and we're trying to build that now without spending money on paid teachers to come in and teach something because that's lost and we can't afford to do that forever," he said.

Manes also wants to increase female involvement and make it feel accepting to all genders.

This year there was one girl the first week, and about five the second week.

Manes is considering adding an all-girls week next year and said he might advertise the camp differently. He said he'd like the female head driver on the robotics team to take the robot to the middle schools and test drive it on stage and invite other females to drive the robot.

"You get them up on stage and make them participate because then they start to feel safe with it," Manes said. "If you don't have one girl, you're never going to have any. It takes more than that anyway for them to be comfortable in that environment."

Reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-479-2384.

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