Elementary STEAM camp reimagines Kennywood Park
Seventy Upper St. Clair students in kindergarten through grade 4 recently participated in a week-long STEAM Investigations Camp at Baker Elementary School. The camp focused on re-engineering aspects and characteristics of Kennywood Park to make it more environmentally friendly while safeguarding its tradition of providing a great experience for its patrons.
Led by Pam Dillie, a third grade teacher and science curriculum leader, along with seven elementary teachers and six volunteers, students used their imaginations, creativity, and the Engineering Design Process to complete challenging, multi-step projects and activities.
“Students first created homemade bubble wands with recyclable materials to perform a Bubble Bonanza show,” Mrs. Dillie said. “Campers also designed eco-friendly, rip-roaring rollercoasters fashioned out of recycled pool noodles, using their knowledge of potential and kinetic energies, as the park is known for unique rides!”
The desire to help Kennywood be more energy efficient led to the week’s most popular challenge – the creation of solar ovens.
“Our student engineers designed ovens that were transportable, durable, sustainable, and powered by the sun, which proudly cooked s’mores treats to a proper temperature that any amusement park visitor would gobble up,” Mrs. Dillie said.
As a culminating activity, students participated in a field trip to Kennywood Park that included information regarding the history and science behind the park and its roller coasters. Led by former Kennywood owner Andy Quinn, students received a behind the scenes look at the park and its many secrets.
“They helped our students understand which Racer coaster will always win and why.” Mrs. Dillie said. “A big relief for many campers was the discovery that the Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt are supposed to shake, rattle and rumble, because of the science behind their wooden structures!”
The young Upper St. Clair scientists and engineers were also intrigued to learn about the various designs and engineering of coasters and their hills, turns and speeds.
“Campers were impressed that The Phantom’s Revenge was awarded the fastest coaster title for nine years running and that the Sky Rocket’s design uses gravity and opposing magnets to create for one terrific experience,” Mrs. Dillie said.
The week concluded with the “kidnapping” of Kenny the Kangaroo. All three Upper St. Clair elementary principals were lead suspects in the case. Upper St. Clair’s Police Detective Lt. Gallatin, introduced students to forensic science.
“By using the science behind finger printing, our campers determined that Dr. Patrick McClintock-Comeaux, Baker Elementary principal, did indeed capture the marsupial for his own enjoyment! (Don’t worry, Kenny is home safe at the park and Dr. McClintock-Comeaux has been released from camp’s custody.)” Mrs. Dillie said.
Mrs. Dillie deemed the 2016 STEAM Investigations Camp a great success.
“Campers, and staffers alike, relished in the challenges they faced each day. They united together as teams to concoct one-of-a-kind creations that assisted Kennywood Park with eco-friendly alternatives for its day-to-day operations,” she said. “Scientists continued to amaze one another by constantly reinventing and re-engineering ideas until they successfully met the client’s needs.”
STEAM Investigations Camp will return next summer as scientists assist their new client, PNC Park, engineer new green technologies including pitching machines and water filtration systems to benefit baseball players and Pirate fans.