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Science day camp blasts off for first time from Hempfield in July

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 8:34 p.m.

Building rockets to blast off in the air, exploring robots with LEGOs, learning about physics in a fun way — all this and more can be found next month at the first-ever Penn State Extension 4-H Program Robotics Day Camp.

During the three-day camp for youths ages 9-12, participants will concentrate on science and engineering activities. “People think you have to live on a farm to be involved” in 4-H, said Johanna Sheppard, 4-H Extension educator for the Penn State Extension in Westmoreland County. “You don't have to raise bunnies or horses to be involved.”

The camp will introduce engineering concepts with LEGOs Mindstorm NXT and more. Sheppard said children don't always understand why something works but are so quick to grasp how it works, which is exactly what engineers do.

Chevron U.S.A. Inc. recently donated $10,000 to Westmoreland County 4-H programs for its Future Lego Leaders Robotics Competition. Some of the money was used to purchase equipment for the competition, equipment which will also be used at the day camp.

Nathan Calvert, policy, government and public affairs representative for the Appalachian/Michigan Strategic Business Unit of Chevron North America Exploration and Production Co., said the company requires thousands of talented professionals such as engineers, geologists, geophysicists and information technology specialists to produce energy for the world every day.

“By supporting the efforts of the Westmoreland County Cooperative Extension, we hope to build capacity for the kind of experienced-based, hands-on learning that encourage students to choose STEM-based careers,” Calvert said. “Programs like summer camps offer great opportunities for students to learn about science and technology in a fun and engaging way.”

Heather Ford of Penn-Trafford School District has two children, Tyler, 11, and Hailey, 9, who will attend the camp this summer.

“I've always felt strongly about 4-H because they offer good things for kids to belong to,” she said. “When this came up, I thought it was great because my son is a science guy.”

Although Tyler's favorite subject is science, his next favorite activity is building things out of LEGOs.

“I like how you can discover new things and make big accomplishments,” said the rising sixth-grader at Penn Middle School, who is currently building a miniature rocket with his father that will go 200 feet in the air.

But the science guy isn't the only one looking forward to camp this summer.

Hailey, who will be a fourth- grader at Harrison Park Elementary, is a 4-H member who wants to be a horse trainer when she grows up. She said she is looking forward to the camp because it will be “totally different.”

“I've always wanted to make a robot,” she said.

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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