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Students step up at STEM Camp

Iowa Lakes hosts three-day learning event

June 18, 2013
By David Swartz - Managing Editor , Estherville Daily News

Can you calculate how fast a rollercoaster is traveling at its lowest point? Can you program a mobile robot to follow a path and recognize obstacles?

That's just a couple of things sixth and seventh grade students are learning at the Education Talent Search STEM Camp titled "Rollercoasters and robotics" at Iowa Lakes Community College this week.

On Tuesday, Mark Zabawa, an associate professor of chemistry and biology, conducted several experiments with the students including showing how much energy a gummy bear generates.

Article Photos

Mark Zabaawa, Associate professor of chemistry and biology at Iowa Lakes, oversees an experiment with students at the Educational Talent Search STEM Camp Tuesday morning at the Estherville campus.
EDN photo by David Swartz

He also conducted experiments with nylon polymers as well as showing metal activity and how acids react to carbohydrates.

"We also demonstrated the affect of surface area showing how grain can explode in a bin," he said.

During an afternoon session Tuesday, students could build and program their own robots.

Wade Webber, a member of the governor's Northwest Iowa STEM Advisory Board, said the students received basic instruction on putting things together.

"Once they mastered the baseline, they learn the skill of moving forward," he said. Part of a hallway challenge for the students is to create a basket for their robot that can hold a ball and create a lever to put the ball a bucket.

"One of the things they learn is don't throw away an idea," Webber said. "It could be what you're looking for a bit later."

Weber said the challenge is also to get students to be comfortable with themselves.

"They need to give themselves a chance to learn," he said. "We just build layer upon layer and after a couple days, they can do it."

In a computer course, taught by Kevin Grems titled "Gamers 'R' Us" students began learning some of the basics of developing games.

"I like to experiment and the reason I took this class is I thought it'd be interesting to make video games," said Ryan Williams.

Eric T. Olson, associate professor of science at Iowa Lakes, held a course on the physics of rollercoasters.

Olson said Monday students had the opportunity to measure the height of a rollercoaster using triangulation. Students were taught some of the math and how to put it on a calculator.

"It's a challenge for them so I'm not teaching them too many new things, but giving them a little."

One of the points was that the height from which the rollercoaster car starts relates to the speed it gets to at the bottom.

Some of the other topics covered over the camp are anatomy, biology, chemistry, math and wind energy.



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