Students from across Hamilton County engage with a lesson in the STEAM Society’s first camp, Fall Into Physics. (Photo: Contributed)

A local startup is looking to spark enthusiasm and put students in a forward-thinking mode with its new STEAM camps.

“What you see when you have regular camps is that the already-interested kids show up,” Murray Fenstermaker, director of content for STEAM Society, said. “Kindling others’ enthusiasm is one of the most important things we can do.”

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. It’s similar to the more common acronym, STEM-science, technology, engineering and math. 

STEAM Society incorporates art into its camps because the founders feel that a big portion of science and technology involves components of art. They named graphic design and video game coding as examples of this.

Camps will range in price from $40 for a day camp to $295 to $545 for weeklong camps.

Camps aim for continued learning
STEAM Society launched in April with the idea to create educational camps that would continue to benefit the campers through the rest of their lives.

Outreach

Through STEAM Society’s wide outreach, the startup estimates to affect roughly 600 students during summer 2017, with about 40 to 50 students in each session of camp and multiple sessions per location.

To do this, STEAM Society leaders teach participants skills they can use after camp or later in their careers.

For example, STEAM Society’s video editing camp teaches participants to use cellphones and online programs instead of expensive, high-tech equipment.

This prevents campers from losing the skills they learned if they are unable to afford or reasonably obtain the software, leaders said.

Other camps feature “Minecraft,” which teaches code writing and game design, and robotics, which includes a competition at the end of the camp.

More camps are in the works, and they will take place at six universities across the Southeast.

To help students develop a plan for the future, STEAM Society hopes to help campers find out what they love before they have to make a decision about college.

“Most kids pick their college, then their major,” Clay Odom, STEAM Society president, said. “It should be flipped. They should know what they want to do first, then pick the college that supports that major.”

STEAM Society also plans to bring in college representatives to meet the students during camp in the same way that sports players meet college recruiters during camps. 

Leaders aren’t releasing the names of the universities that will host these camps until final agreements are made. An announcement will likely be made in December.

Other help 

Another STEAM Society program, Invisible College, also aims to help students think about their futures.

The program is geared toward high school sophomores and juniors.

It’s a yearlong program that meets once a month to learn about different STEAM subjects that range from HTML coding to robotics to professional etiquette.

Diversity, accessibility 
Leaders also developed a system to help ensure that the camps are accessible to everyone who is interested in STEAM.

For every camper who pays to take part in the camp, another camper who wouldn’t be able to afford the camp will be able to attend.

The pricing model helped bring a wide range of diversity to the first camp, which was Oct. 12.

Leaders said that they had participation from students from seven different races and 13 different schools.

One-third of the group was female.

“[When the students get together], it’s not about which school you’re from anymore; it’s about learning and collaborating,” Odom said.

For more about STEAM Society, click here.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is also currently attending UTC, where she is the news editor for the school newspaper, The University Echo.