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10 great STEM summer camps for Pittsburgh kids

Candy Williams
March07/ 2018

Above photo: Safety goggles are a good idea during Wreck-It-Camp. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

For kids who just can’t seem to get enough of STEM studies at school, there are many opportunities to dig deeper into science, technology, engineering and math at summer camps. These STEM camps will keep kids’ attention while challenging their intellect.

Wreck-It-Camp

Sometimes the only thing more fun than building up is knocking down. Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers Wreck-It-Camp July 16-20 for kids ages 6-7. The camp is all about how nature builds things up and tears them down. Kids will delve into the science of decomposition, exploring how structures as diverse as plants, animals, and ancient architecture all eventually break apart. They’ll compete in a design challenge to figure out why pyramids last. And they’ll experiment with physics and chemistry to explore the forces that shape Earth’s surface — and smash it up.

summer camps
Makeshop Camp brings out the inventor in creative kids. Photo by Christopher Sprowls

Makeshop Camp

Kids with a knack for turning gizmos and gadgets into really cool creations will have a blast at Makeshop Camp from July 31-Aug. 3 at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Young inventors from ages 7-10 will explore circuitry, animation, weaving and building with recycled materials. Plus, there will be plenty of time for museum exhibits and outdoor activities.

summer camps
Self-driving Optibot designers road-test their mini-vehicles. Photo courtesy of Camp Invention

Camp Invention’s Fast Forward

The world of robotic technology comes alive for kids in grades 1-6 at Camp Invention’s Fast Forward program. In the week-long camps held in 18 schools in and around Pittsburgh, campers will design their own self-driving Optibot that senses changes in light, build tracks for their mini-vehicles to follow and explore impact sensors using a small-scale crash test dummy. In a ‘Mod My Mini Mansion’ component, they’ll dream up a futuristic smart home filled with gadgets, LEDs and technology.

summer camps
Campers do some exploring at Powdermill Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History

Eco Rangers

Conservation-minded kids can become Eco Rangers for a week at a camp offered by Carnegie Mellon University Center for Architecture Explorations and Carnegie Museums. Powdermill Nature Reserve is the setting for Eco Ranger adventures from July 16-20 for ages 9-12. Campers will focus on conservation science as they hike to an avian research center and create designs to protect birds from colliding with windows. They’ll explore Powdermill Run, an exceptional-value stream, build a model watershed and screen-print an endangered animal T-shirt. A field trip to Carnegie Museum of Natural History is part of the fun.

summer camps
Campers look for clues to decode a new mystery at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Photo by Paul G. Wiegman

Rockin’ Researchers Decode Nature

Campers will become science sleuths as they unravel a new mystery every day while investigating fish, birds and insects during Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens’ Rockin’ Researchers Decode Nature summer camp Aug. 13-17. All that detailed detective work can make a kid hungry, so the new camp for ages 6-10 features a healthy lunch prepared with Let’s Move Pittsburgh each day.

summer camps
A new challenge awaits these drone pilots-in-training. Photo courtesy of JCC of Greater Pittsburgh

Drone Flying Camp

It’s the latest craze to take flight with young aviators. JCC of Greater Pittsburgh is offering four camps this summer to teach kids the basics of drone technology and start them on the path to safe take-offs. Intro to Drone Flying Missions for kids in grades 1-2 will be held July 9-13 in Squirrel Hill. Campers will use iPad flight simulators to learn the basics and safety tips before taking to the air. The week culminates with Ultimate Drone Games that include Tic-Tac-Drone, Drone Darts, and Duck-Duck-Drone. Advanced classes will challenge older kids with drone coding and superhero drone games.

summer camps
Carnegie Science Investigators taking a really good look. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center

CSI

Kids ages 10-11 can put their detective skills to the test as they analyze evidence and solve mysteries as CSI Carnegie Science Investigators. Campers will hone their powers of observation and deductive skills, and then step into the Science Center’s new laboratory to carry out chemical tests, identify microscopic clues and perform DNA analysis to solve mysteries. Two sessions are offered: June 18-22 and Aug. 6-10.

summer camps
Assemble students design and film their own stop-motion animations. Photo courtesy of Assemble

We Have the Power

Does your 6- or 7-year-old have a personality with spark? Assemble offers We Have the Power, a summer camp running July 16-20, for just those kinds of kids! Through hands-on activities, campers learn all about different types of power – from electricity to the energy in our bodies to people power that changes our world. Projects will include circuit block inventions and body-positive snack science.

summer camps
A camper observes a few feathered friends. Photo courtesy of The National Aviary

National Aviary Teen Week

Older kids ages 13-16 can connect with nature, meet beautiful birds up-close and learn about veterinary science during The National Aviary’s Teen Week summer camps July 30-Aug. 3 and Aug. 6-10. Teens will explore birds’ free-flight habitats, work among flocks of lorikeets, flamingos and penguins, and prep meals for the birds alongside aviculturists. Kids have a chance to travel to a natural habitat and take birding hikes through Allegheny Commons for nature photography or sketching.

summer camps
The University of Pittsburgh Computer Science Department hosts high school kids in an intense computer boot camp.

Pitt Technology Leadership Initiative

The Computer Science Department of the University of Pittsburgh offers this free summer intensive for high school kids running June 25-July 11. Kids entering grades 8-12 can apply even if they have no experience. The camp will provide the tools, motivation and opportunity to navigate the world of computer science. They will work with big data, mobile apps, web design and opportunity systems. The project-based curriculum will produce an end result each week, with parents invited at the program’s end to see their kid’s final project. Check the website for the application process and deadlines.

Candy Williams

Candy Williams is a freelance writer and journalist whose articles have appeared in national and local publications. She lives in the South Hills.

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