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Blasting through a cloud of smoke, two well-designed wooden cars — both powered by carbon dixoide cartridges — raced down the wire tracks in the Comstock Middle School gym in Santa Rosa, Calif. One of the cars made it to the other end, just a tiny bit faster than the other. In numerous other heats, cars flipped sideways and upside-down, while others zoomed along without incident.

Comstock Maker Camp cars

This was the final showcase of the 2013 Comstock Maker Camp. For three weeks in June and early July, Comstock Maker Camp was offered to approximately 80 middle-school students in Santa Rosa, Calif. Funded and supported by the Nancy C. and Dale Dougherty Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County, the camp also partnered directly with Santa Rosa City Schools. This was its second summer, and if the showcase was any evidence, it was a resounding success!

Comstock Maker Camp Be a Maker wall

Campers took part in a variety of projects throughout the half-day programs, including making furniture out of cardboard, individually designed CO2 cars, iPad videos, and hot air balloons, along with solar ovens, duct-tape wallets, and a number of other fun projects. As part of a Make panel, they spoke proudly of both their projects and processes. They showed off stable, two-person cardboard couches, wiggling around to demonstrate sturdiness. The wooden CO2-propelled cars were carefully shaped, sanded, and painted, and after the final races, on display in the courtyard. The big hot air balloons, made from colorful sheets of patched tissue paper, were hanging carefully (post-launch!) for show. Many campers hope to continue making for the rest of the summer, or even come back as counselors next summer.

Maker Camp had an effect on the instructors as well. Three Santa Rosa teachers — Dante DePaola, science and Make teacher from Piner High School, Rachael Ayre, math and Make teacher at Montgomery High School, and John Lundblad, science teacher at Comstock Middle School — all brought their expertise and fun-loving spirits to teach at Maker Camp. Robyn Kopp, Area Director at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County, along with Justin Boothe, Assistant Principal at Comstock Middle, also helped to lead and facilitate the camp. And in many ways, while working with the campers, they learned a lot themselves as well. Dante, Rachael, and John are developing their own Maker programs for their respective schools, and they will take some of these ideas back to their classrooms in the fall. John was really excited to show off the craftsmanship, design, and scientific concepts integrated into the hot air balloon project, and they all have a plethora of new projects to try out.

It’s been great to see making spread from home garages to school spaces in communities both near and far. If you’re looking for more camp projects this summer, don’t forget to check out our online Maker Camp on Google+!

Stephanie Chang

Stephanie is the program developer for education at Maker Media. She has worked in STEAM education for years now, previously running The Tech Museum Summer Camps, and spends her time making new digital and tangible connections in the world of ed.


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