Middle school students learn about the world of engineering at an annual camp.
Among those from the area who attended this year’s camp were twin brothers Ryan and Erik Hemmila, as well as Bailey Seefeldt.
About a year ago the students learned about Camp Badger Exploring Engineering from two teachers at Waupaca Middle School – Gifted and Talented Instructor Joan Schultz and Science Instructor Robert Welch.
“It was offered to everybody,” Ryan said. “I thought it was pretty neat, because I like stuff like that.”
Held in the summer, Camp Badger is a week-long camp for students who will enter eighth grade in the fall.
It is held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at UW-River Falls.
The UW–Madison College of Engineering founded the camp in 1998. This was the third year one session of the camp was held at UW-River Falls.
Students learn about engineering through a combination of field trips, job site visits, hands-on activities and small group discussions.
Erik and Ryan went to UW-River Falls and spent the week visiting such places as Xcel Energy’s Allen S. King Generating Station, Medtronic, the Stillwater Lift Bridge and Delta Air Airlines at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Evenings were spent doing such activities as rock climbing, bowling and hitting balls in batting cages.
They stayed in dorms and ate on campus in the commons.
The application period for the camp opens early in the year, and space is limited.
The application includes questions about what they like about math and science and what they do not like about those subjects.
A letter of recommendation from a teacher or school counselor is also required.
Ryan and Erik’s parents, Mike and Christa Hemmila, encouraged them to apply.
While Ryan was immediately interested, Erik was initially apprehensive.
“I think you’d really like this,” Christa told Erik.
She was right.
Erik had fun and said, “I got ideas about different careers. I liked visiting the different places.”
His brother is interested in math, science and engineering.
“I learned a lot about the different types of engineers there are,” Ryan said. “It was a lot of fun. I saw how a lot of different things are made that I didn’t know about.”
Schultz said students from Waupaca have been attending the camp for years.
WMS staff tries to inform all seventh graders about the program through announcements, as well as in their science classes.
She also posts an application outside of her door.
The current link to the camp is http://campbadger.engr.wisc.edu/ with Schultz encouraging students who are interested in applying to check it frequently for the posting of new information.
“From everything students have told me, it is a wonderful opportunity to see exactly what different careers in engineering might be like and to experience some real-life problem solving with other students who have a strong inclination towards engineering,” she said.
Welch said it is one of the best summer programs students have attended.
“They come back so charged up and greatly disappointed that they only get one chance and are unable to return. They just can’t stop talking about the experiences they shared with other students from other schools,” he said. “It is a wonderful program for students to explore the idea, the serious idea of becoming an engineer and making our world a better place to live for all concerned.”
The camp is not only open to Wisconsin students but also to students who live in Minnesota. Ryan and Erik have been keeping in contact with a student from Minnesota and plan to get together with him.
It costs about $600 to attend Camp Badger. The fee includes the residence hall room and board, field trips and scheduled recreational activities.
Scholarships are available and may reduce the cost by as much as $300.
“We’d like others to know it’s available and to inquire about it,” Christa said of the camp.
For Ryan and Erik, their week at camp was just like being in college.
“It’s like the most fun thing you’ll do in your life,” Ryan said.