Campus and Community

Students Exploring STEM Topics at UHD Summer Camps

Students at UHD’s Engineering Camp display a conceptual model of a flood-proof safe.
Photo: Thomas B. Shea

What do a smart-life vest, a device to warn against leaving children in a hot vehicle, and a flood-proof safe all have in common?

These were the type of products pitched “Shark Tank”-style to a panel of judges by a group of middle and high school students who spent a week developing product concepts at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD).

“So, what do you say we make a deal and lock it up?” asked student Ashay Swadi at the end of his group’s presentation on the flood-proof safe.

“I’m really interested in engineering as a career and a fan of math and science,” said Swadi, a sophomore at Cypress Woods High School. “And, I had the opportunity to build and research things. The safe project was an eye-opening experience in terms of making a product to help people. And, that’s what I’d like to do … help people.”

Swadi is just one of many students who are participating in a host of educational summer camps hosted at UHD. He participated in EngineeringCamp – The Pitch Engineering Future Founders. Other University camps, include CompuCamp, ScienceCamp, WritingCamp, SummerAcademy and LanguageCamp.

UHD Summer Camps continue through July 13, and registration is still open. UHD faculty and staff are eligible for a 20 percent discount on registration fees.

These camps have grown steadily at UHD since it offered its first CompuCamp back in 2002. This year, approximately 2,300 students will be learning new skills at University-hosted camps this summer.

“These camps continue the learning cycle for these students,” said G.V. Krishnan, director of UHD’s Applied Business & Technology Center, who manages the camps. “I hear from parents that their children want to come to these camps, not only to learn new things … but to be on a university campus and participate in a new learning environment.”

Camps extend beyond UHD. While many take place on campus, a variety of other UHD-sponsored camps are conducted throughout the city, including sites at the University of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake, St. Thomas More Parish School, Faith West Academy in Katy, Nolan Ryan Junior High School in Pearland, and Cornerstone Christian Academy in Sugar Land.

According to Krishnan these campus are gateway educational experiences for students.

“The idea is that once they learn something new … like a new computer language or new engineering skills … it will create a passion for these new disciplines,” he said. “They will be inspired to further investigate these topics and perhaps even study them at their respective schools.”

In addition to developing prototype products aimed at helping others, this year’s camps have engaged students in building their own computers and audio engineering among other technical topics.

Camper Hudson Kadlecdek, a student at Frank Black Middle School, brought his interest in video games to the audio engineering camp. He along with other campers worked with audio engineering software and mini-keyboards connected to computers to create musical compositions.

“This camp shows you where the sounds and music for video games come from,” Kadlecdek said. “My favorite part was making new sounds and experimenting with musical instruments.”

At EngineeringCamp, sisters Saba and Layla Scott were among the students who developed a smart life vest to prevent drownings. Their biggest takeaways were a new-found appreciation for innovation and collaboration.

“Working with others can be challenging at times,” said Layla Scott, a student at Pearland West Middle School. “We had different ways of thinking, but we had to work together to complete projects.”

For many students, however, one of the most valuable aspects of the camp experience was the opportunity to visit a university.

“It’s cool,” Swadi said following the presentation of his group’s flood-proof safe. “It’s great to be surrounded by all of these classes going on. It provides you with the experience of seeing what college is really like.”

Visit UHD’s Summer Camps to learn more.