First-year summer camp at Mercer Co. school built around building interest in engineering; high school students worked as counselors to gain internship credits

Harrodsburg Herald, June 24, 2016

Corning Foundation helps fund MCIS camp
Camp Invention Gives Children Hands on Engineering Experience
by Molly Hogan

The Mercer County Intermediate School (MCIS), in conjunction with the Corning Foundation Inc., hosted the first ever Camp Invention, June 6–10.

Georgiana Bray, the family resource coordinator at MCIS, said she has been trying to bring the engineering camp to the school for nearly five years. After reaching out to the Corning Foundation for financial support through a grant, the camp finally came to fruition this year.

"It finally all came together and it really was just beautiful," Bray said.

At the camp, kids got to work with everything from solar powered robots to building a green amusement park. They opened up old electronics to see how they worked. The kids also brought in upcycled materials from home to use as part of their projects, including old boxes, screws and rubber bands.

"They actually tried to create something new, from taking apart and looking at how things work," said MCIS science teacher Kristy Drakeford, who also served as the camp director. "Activities like this are going to help reinforce what we're doing in the classroom."

Drakeford said the hallways were electric with excitement during the camp.

“When I walked into the hall, all you could hear were kids and excitement,” she said.

Drakeford said parents could see the excitement from their children as well.

“I had a parent say, ‘I don’t know what you did to these kids to make them want to come to school in the summer, but it’s great,’” she said.

“It’s exciting for us to see their excitement,” said Bray. “There was not a time that the kids were not engaged and chattering and having a great time. It really was a great week.”

Camp Invention is funded with government support through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and is sponsored by several other companies including: Ford, Army Educational Outreach Program and Motorola Solutions Foundation. Six high school students served as leadership interns or counselors, and received training prior to Camp Invention through the camp and the USPTO. Upon completion
of the camp, the leadership interns received a letter from the USPTO to use towards college applications.

"It's a nice added benefit for them. They had a great time and several of them came to me and said they would like to participate next year," Bray said. Two rising juniors on the robotics team also helped to work the camp, as well as two junior counselors in middle school.

To host 45 campers, it would cost the school $9,000. The grant from the Corning Foundation gave $4,500. Bray said they were able to get the cost down to $100 per camper thanks to Title I funding.

She said the scholarships the students received were based on recommendations from teachers.

“We wanted teachers to see the potential in kids and we try to help every student by bringing in these camps, but at the same time those kids that could be in lower economic status, that wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to this camp but have the interest and knowledge and the know how, we wanted those kids to have the same opportunity,” Bray said.

She added, "When we went to the Foundation, and asked for the grant, one of our things was that we wanted to try and expand and go out into other companies here. We have lots of great resources at our fingertips here, so if we could get some other companies/factories on board, then that camp can grow and we can keep doing it every summer."

One of the goals for the leaders is to help show children the workforce in their hometown.

"That was my thing with getting the industries involved was they are kind of feeding into kids at a younger age and enhancing the education to be able to give corporate companies within Harrodsburg, really good educated and solid, interested kids that want to work here locally," Bray said.

Bray hopes to continue bringing the camp each year and is seeking additional sponsors. If more funds are raised, more scholarships can be given and the number of participants can also be increased.

For the first year, the school gave out eight full scholarships, four boys and four girls.

“That was one of my stipulations,” said Shawn Markham, an engineering fellow at Corning Inc. She said she wanted to make sure equal opportunity was given to boys and girls.

Markham, one of the leaders in getting the grant for the school, said, Corning Inc. is excited to help but wants to allow room for other companies to pitch in.

“The Foundation is great in their support, but one of the questions is also how will you become self-sufficient going forward,” she said. “So as a community member and a Corning employee I kind of said, OK can we get other support?”

“That’s the great thing I love about this community,” Markham added. “I can work for a Fortune 500 company and live in Harrodsburg and get access to money to support these kinds of activities.”

Camp Invention will be putting together a personalized video for MCIS with pictures from their event.

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