Water Your Plans for Summer Camp?


Contributed by Mary Grace Ewald

Thinkery camps offer hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) as a platform for innovation. Each week-long program offers a variety of fun mental and physical challenges that activate campers’ creativity. Campers answer their questions of “how” and “why” through interactive experiences designed to keep them exploring, creating and moving.

Here’s a recap of last year’s HydroExplorers, Hydroelectric Dam Camp:

Every week Thinkery welcomes a fresh group of young innovators to our summer camps. The Pre-K-5th grade camps are designed around a unique theme ranging from Engineering with Music to Illuminating Inventions. HydroExplorers inspired campers to explore the wonderful world of water with exciting hands-on activities, asking questions like where do we see water in our daily life, who depends on water, and how can water generate electricity?

Campers in the 3rd-5th grade group were excited to design and construct their very own hydroelectric dam throughout the week.

camp pic 4Thinkery partnered with retired UT engineering professor Dr. Phil Schmidt to develop this project over the course of several months. He helped design the activities to allow the kids to “translate science into practical terms. Along the way, things didn’t always work as expected, a common occurrence in engineering, so they had to learn to stick with the job and figure out what they needed to do to fix the problem. Learning that “failure” is just a stepping stone to success was one of the most important goals of the project. With patience and persistence, most of the children achieved their objective, and their faces show that they did, indeed, experience the joy of discovery and creation.”

Each day, campers were encouraged to collaborate in small groups to creatively design and execute the different parts of their dam system. This included:

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  • Water=Power: Constructing a working water wheel to see how water has the power to cause movement and convert potential energy to kinetic energy.
  • Complete the circuit: Spending time in our Space8 lab, learning how circuits transfer electricity and building circuit systems to power light bulbs and small fans.


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  • Moving magnets create electricity: Discovering how, with a coil of wire, we can turn a circuit into a magnet, and then use movement within a magnetic field to produce electricity. Campers placed their magnets and coils on homemade generators so that together they could light an LED bulb.
  • Building Pressure: Understand the intersection between the level of water and the amount of energy that the generator can produce as they stop leaks in their dams.

Putting it all together: They put all of their new knowledge together to build a gravity dam that connects to their generator, and with water, produces electricity that lights up their house!

Campers enjoyed building up for a week long project where they used exciting science and their imagination to solve a challenge.

We had a blast teaching our campers the STEAM principles around water, and we can’t wait to inspire more learners!

Click here to learn more about our 2016 camps!

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