CEMS - The College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Camps enliven summer campus

Release Date: 07-02-2008

Author: Jon C. Reidel
Email: Jon.Reidel@uvm.edu
Phone: 802/656-8206 Fax: (802) 656-3203

(L-R) Felix Wu and Max Liehr of Essex and Varun tej Gonuguntla of
South Burlington display their winning catapult

(L-R) Felix Wu and Max Liehr of Essex and Varun tej Gonuguntla of South Burlington display their winning catapult during the final day of the Governor's Institute in Mathematical Sciences. Students spent the week with math peers from across the state and worked with professors from UVM and Middlebury on high level mathematics including chaos, fractals, complex networks, game theory and robotics. (Photo: Jon Reidel)

As Grace De Geus, a junior at U-32 High School in East Montpelier, says goodbye to friends she just spent a week with at the Governor's Institute in Mathematical Sciences at the university, Leanne Shea of Concord, N.H. walks across campus for the first time with two bags strung over her shoulder, a lacrosse stick and a look of excitement about the week ahead.

It's a ritual that goes on all summer long — one batch of kids leaves and another arrives to attend one of the dozens of camps held on campus from June to August. The choices are diverse for students between the ages of 5-18 and range from math and science to geology and The World Debate Institute to just about any kind of sport. Students get a taste of college life, living in dorms and eating at dining halls, and the opportunity to meet peers from Vermont and other states with similar interests.

"It has been a great experience being able to spend time with other girls who like math," says Katherine Pastula of Danville, who attended the Governor's Institute. "There aren't that many girls at my school who really like math, so this was great. We're like a little math family."

Most of the camps are operated by UVM departments, although some are run by outside organizations that use the campus as a home base. Upward Bound, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is one of six Federal TRIO Programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. UVM has hosted the program for nine years and works with students in ninth grade starting with a six-week summer immersion program.

"We have been successful at propelling a population into higher education that is typically underrepresented," says Terry Reilly, assistant program director and outreach professional at the university. "The key to success is that our students experience a personal transformation during the program and really start to see themselves as 'college worthy.'"

The Governor's Institutes, which include math, arts, Asian studies, science and technology and engineering, brings top students from across the state for a week of learning and fun. The math camp ended with a catapult contest in the main lobby of the Marsh-Austin-Tupper Residential Complex. Students worked with peers and professors from UVM and Middlebury on such topics as chaos, fractals, complex networks, robotics and game theory.

"A lot of us aren't sure where we're going to college yet, so it was good to meet professors and see what it was like living on campus," says Max Liehr of Essex High, who was on the winning catapult team. "In many ways it was better than a college visit."

Christine Massy, adjunct professor in education and geology, has been running the
Environmental Science Day Camp hosted by the UVM Perkins Geology Museum for 10 years and also serves as director the Governor's Institute Science and Technology camp. The theme of the 2008 environmental camp is "Understanding Where You Are: The Vermont Environment." It gives about 50 students in grades 1-7 a "taste of what being a real scientist is like" while using the Vermont environment as a laboratory. Many of the programs are led by local elementary school teachers and undergraduate education majors.

"It can be a life-changing experience for some of the kids," says Massey. "Many of them end up studying in the areas we focus on in college. It's a valuable learning experience for everyone."

The UVM sports camps, run primarily by UVM coaches, include soccer, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, field hockey and swimming, which is run by Nike. The Adventure Day Camp is one of the more popular camps and draws more than 100 kids for each of its seven sessions. Overall, more than 2,000 kids ages 5-18 attend sports- related camps during the summer.

The camps also give coaches an opportunity to watch potential recruits perform without having to hit the road. Lacrosse goalie Leanne Shea, who says she'd like to return to her native state for college, sees the camp as an opportunity to meet the UVM lacrosse coaches and check out the campus. "I'm looking forward to practicing a lot and getting better so I can play in college," she says. "This should also be a good opportunity to get to know the coaches here. I'm really looking forward to the week ahead."

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