Immersing Young Students in Technology

More than $43,000 was awarded through the Texas Workforce Commission’s Camp Code grant to the STC’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, which enabled 72 middle schoolers between grades 6-8 to attend summer camps dedicated to concepts in STEM. TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez (top) visited with students in July. Courtesy Image
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Texas Border Business

LA JOYA, Texas – South Texas College is opening a world of possibilities for young students seeking an early introduction into computer science, information technology, mathematics and engineering.

Through a $43,496 Texas Workforce Commission Camp Code grant, which was awarded to STC’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM), a total of 72 students from La Joya Independent School District middle schools were able to attend summer camps that exposed them to concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through the use of tiny computers called microcontrollers (MCUs), robotics and computer programming projects.

Using MCUs like Arduino Uno and Raspberry Pi, students in this camp constructed their very own “smart car,” which they then uploaded with code that enabled the vehicle to perform a variety of functions.

Students also created prototypes of different electronic projects utilizing various components, such as LED lights, electrical wiring, push buttons, buzzers and ultrasonic distance sensors.

“The students build the car within the first day or two and then they spend some time making sure everything’s working and wired correctly before they begin uploading code to the car so it can perform different functions,” said Nicholas Hinojosa, Computer Information Technology faculty with STC who was instructing students at the camp. “The students can program the car to avoid or follow obstacles and objects. They can use code to enable the vehicle to do line tracking so it can follow a path or be controlled using infrared remote or via Bluetooth.”

Brittany Rodriguez, 12, was among the students from La Joya’s Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School who attended the camp. Rodriguez said she had attended similar computer camps in the past and is already hoping for a career in engineering or a similar field where she learns more about electricity and energy.

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“I learned so much here like how to code, how to use wires properly and especially how to be careful when we are creating things like robots,” Rodriguez said. “It’s all about learning how to do something correctly and having patience because sometimes it can get frustrating when it comes to making a robot. We just had to try our best.”

Camp Code was established by the Texas Workforce Commission to foster an interest in STEM-related careers and increase the exposure of Texas middle school children to coding and programming, and to increase the interest in STEM, especially for girls and women.

The grants are awarded to innovative school districts, colleges, universities and higher education institutions to provide hands-on experiences in innovative learning, problem solving and analytical skills.

“The Camp Code scholarships give young middle school students a great opportunity to participate in creating tomorrow’s technology,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “Similar to using virtual reality technology to explore careers, these camps immerse young students in STEM fields; there are many occupations from which they can choose. I’d like to thank South Texas College for partnering up with La Joya ISD to provide students with real-world STEM applications.”

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