When most of us think about summer camp the images of hiking in the woods, archery classes, swimming in a lake, and arts and crafts come to mind. Usually these camps are at a mountain hideaway and last for weeks. And while there are lots of advantages to traditional camps for students, more and more high school students are using the summer to learn, discover, and prepare for college.These camps are usually held on college campuses and feature subject matter from theatre to writing to the most popular camp – STEM. STEM camps date back to the 1960s, however most were for elite students. Today it is estimated that over 1 million students attend a STEM focused summer camp. These camps help students’ focus on academic areas they are hoping to learn more about or improve upon. And if these students can improve their skills they will finds a growing job market ready to absorb them in the future.

According to the Department of Commerce STEM jobs will grow by 17% per year over the next decade and employers report that finding qualified applicants is harder than ever. This trend was outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Idea Lab where they made the case that not only are STEM camps popular they attract students from all demographics thus inviting a wider, more diverse talent pool.  Florida Consortium member institutions, Florida International University, University of Central Florida and University of South Florida are part of this STEM revolution. Each university welcomes hundreds of students each summer to their campuses in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa to learn more about math, science, engineering, and health sciences. For example, at University of Central Florida. aspiring students can participate in GEMS or Girls EXCELing in Math and Science.  At the University of South Florida, students can participate in a four-day camp Biomedical Engineering camp. This non-credit program allows enrollees to explore careers in biomedical engineering and to interact with biomedical engineering faculty and practicing biomedical engineers. In addition students get an opportunity to interact with the bio-labs and learn together in a living and learning environment at the Kosove Residence Hall. Finally, STEM summer campers at Florida International University can attend the STEM Transformation Institute. This camp is designed to bring a multidisciplinary approach to STEM success by combining ideas with the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, College of Education, and the College of Engineering and Computing to increase efficacy and confidence in their STEM learning journey.

In many cases prior to participating in STEM camps, students lack the mentorship and thus do not feel confident in pursuing STEM fields of study and those that do often drop out by their sophomore year. Additional preparation in terms of classes and mentorship is required to be really successful in these challenging fields. Fortunately, STEM summer camps allow students from all over the state of Florida to come to campus and earn the confidence they need to achieve a successful STEM career. The Florida Consortium is working to contribute to these efforts. With a generous grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust faculty from UCF, USF, and FIU are collaborating on projects and summer experiences. This includes a STEM Scholar exchange for college juniors to help students understand and pursue research as a career. College can be hard enough without the stress of not being prepared for the STEM classroom. With the help of dozens of faculty and staff from FIU, UCF, and USF, there is help for hundreds of students to gain the confidence and the skill they will need to be a great STEM student.

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