BYU Chip Camp gets kids excited about engineering

From left: Brittany Stark and Marcos Orfina demonstrate how the LED frisbee functions. (Aaron Hawkins)

BYU and the Boise-based Micron Foundation are hosting an engineering day camp with the goal to expose young teens to electrical engineering.

Chip Camp, named after the microchip, will hold its second session July 11–13. The camp gives teens who have graduated seventh and eighth grade the opportunity to go hands-on with various experiments and activities, including launching rockets, building catapults and programming custom LED frisbees.

“The hope is to get (kids) interested in engineering, and specifically this kind of engineering,” said program director and BYU professor Aaron Hawkins. “If you could influence them at that point (a young age), you have a much better chance before they went to high school to try to steer them towards it.”

Participants attend from across the country attend Chip Camp, and each of the two sessions hosts 80 teens. Hawkins said participants are often visiting from outside Utah, and looking for a fun way to spend their vacations.

“You get to see the kids have a good time, and really enjoy themselves,” said Jace Rozsa, a BYU engineering student and Chip Camp coordinator. “You get to see the kids have a good time and really enjoy themselves and grow their interest in science and engineering.”

Although Chip Camp offers multiple activities, Hawkins said programming an LED frisbee is the most popular among the kids. Attendees are given a few hours to program six LED light on their frisbees, which they can take home.

A Chip Camp attendee shows off her work in progress. (Aaron Hawkins)

“We teach the kids how to program the microcontroller that runs the lights, and they spend a few hours trying to come up with the best patterns and understanding how the program works,” Hawkins said. “Our hope is that some of them go home and play with that frisbee for a long time.”

In addition to providing teens with the opportunity to get excited about science, Hawkins said Chip Camp gives BYU engineering students the opportunity to teach through the engineering department’s Immerse program, which offers BYU engineering students hands-on research opportunities, as well as teaching and leadership opportunities on- and off-campus.

“It’s really fun to work hard on (Chip Camp), and see it all come together,” Rozsa said. “The reward is worth the work.”

Nearly 60 BYU students are currently involved in the program, with responsibilities ranging from leading group activities to acting as camp counselors.

“It’s exciting to see what ideas (the counselors) come up with and how they end up presenting information to young middle school students,” said Jacob Johnson, another student coordinator.

In addition to Chip Camp, the BYU engineering department provides demonstrations for STEM programs throughout the year. Hawkins said these outreach opportunities act as a great way to recruit participants for Chip Camp.

Although Chip Camp registration is closed for this year, those interested in attending Chip Camp 2018 can find more information here.

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