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Science-oriented students headed to electro-optics camp

SOUTH BUFFALO — While the other kids are paddling canoes and toasting marshmallows around a campfire this summer, some future scientists and engineers could be listening by videoconferencing to personnel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., talking about optical imaging.

They also might be making their own holograms or building robots.

Those technology-minded campers will have their adventures during electro-optics summer camp at Indiana University of Pennsylvania Northpointe Campus, where they will be learning about things such as wave optics, electronics, fiber optics, holography, infrared imaging, lasers and nanotechnology.

Eddie Schindler, a freshman student in IUP Northpointe's electro-optics program, got to build an infrared remote and sensor device at last summer's camp.

"You point it at the sensor and whenever you push the button, the lights come on," said Schindler. "I still have it. It still works."

Schindler didn't know anything about electro-optics before coming to the camp. He said the camp inspired him to go into that field. His plans are to attend IUP Northpointe for two years and finish with a bachelors degree at IUP's main campus in Indiana.

"I wasn't sure if this was exactly what I wanted to do," Schindler said. "The experience I had at the camp was very beneficial to my decision in coming to IUP. All the way from the guest speakers coming in, to the staff helping us, made the summer camp such a fun time. What I learned at the camp gave me the background to what I am currently learning at IUP."

"I'd recommend coming to summer camp to anyone who enjoys science, doesn't hate math and is a hands-on person," he said.

The five-day summer day camp is scheduled 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 15-19 and June 22-26. Campers can choose from one of the two weeks.

Any students interested in the electro-optics summer camp can contact Kelley Nuttall, outreach and career coordinator for the 2+2+2 workforce leadership program in electro-optics at the South Buffalo campus, by calling 724-294-3300, ext. 24, or e-mail kelley.nuttall@iup.edu . Details of the camp can be viewed at www.iup.edu/northpointe .

The summer camp is free and open to any students entering 10th, 11th or 12th grade this fall.

Breakfast and lunch are provided free each day and a free banquet for students and their parents is held on the last day of camp.

The camp is sponsored by IUP Northpointe and the Penn State Electro-Optics Center in the county's Northpointe Industrial Park in South Buffalo.

It is funded through a grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

This will be the fourth year of the camp. It has grown steadily from 18 campers attending the first camp in 2006, 27 in 2007 and 30 in 2008.

Due to the large attendance, two camps are offered this year. The school is expecting 24 campers for each week of camp.

For the first time, robotics will be added and students will have the opportunity to build their own robot.

The campers will experience the state-of-the-art labs at the campus. They'll be guided through hands-on activities related to electro-optics.

They will learn about the emerging high-tech career field of electro-optics, visit local electro-optics application companies such as II-VI, Sabeus, Optical Systems Technology and the Penn State Electro-Optics Center and hear from guest speakers in the field. Police departments also take part in the camp to show electro-optics applications in forensics.

"They come to the camp and are able to make a determination that 'this is fun,'" said camp director Feng Zhou, PhD., professor of physics and electro-optics and electro-optics program coordinator at IUP Northpointe. "We try to make camp in a way that they leave knowing they can do this. The students have a sense of accomplishment and see that the field of electro-optics is accessible to them."

IUP Northpointe officials recently were informed that they will receive an additional year of workforce leadership grant funding to continue to build the electro-optics program. The electro-optics summer camp is an extension of the2+2+2 program.

The 2+2+2 program is designed to take a student from high school into college. Students take two years of classes in electro-optics in high school and earn a certificate and credits which can be used towards a two-year associate degree programs in electro-optics at the IUP Northpointe campus.

After earning an associate degree, students are prepared to enter the workforce in positions in the electro-optics industry or they can transfer to the third level of the 2+2+2 program at IUP's Indiana campus where they can obtain a 4-year degree in applied physics with an electro-optics track.

Nuttall received news of a success story of the 2+2+2 program. She said Matthew Gorr, a graduate of the IUP program with both an associate's degree and bachelor's degree, has been hired by Carnegie Mellon Research and Development to work on a laser tweezer project. He will also get free tuition toward his master's and doctorate degrees, she said.

"I think this is encouraging during these tough economic times," Nuttall said.

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