Area students in grades three through eight attended one of two camps offered at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research this week.  The camps highlighted STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a focus on agriculture.  Campers used Minecraft to test their virtual farming skills including growing crops and selecting trees and animals for their land.  Campers also explored drones by building FPG-9 gliders and flying propcopters.  IALR Senior Scientist Dr. Scott Lowman demonstrated how scientists and growers are using unmanned systems, including an AgBot, to learn more about the overall health and needs of crops.

“This camp has given youth the opportunity to put three seemingly different topics (coding, drones, and agriculture) together to form realistic solutions to realistic issues in today’s society,” said Mandi Dolan, Pittsylvania County 4-H Extension Agent.

The Institute developed the camps in partnership with Danville and Pittsylvania County Virginia Cooperative Extension representatives.

“For some youth, this is the first time they have been exposed to how STEM topics can integrate into traditional trades, like agriculture.  It gives youth the vision to revolutionize the way precision agriculture is done, and expand their field of view to the variety of STEM careers they can pursue,” said Daniel Hale, Danville 4-H Extension Agent.

In 2016, the Institute provided over 350 students STEM camp opportunities on non-school days.  The next STEM camps for students throughout the region will be in the summer.

“Students are able to participate in hands-on STEM activities during non-school days, such as drones, to reinforce and link concepts they learn in school,” said Dana Silicki, IALR Coordinator of Advanced Learning.

Photo 1:  IALR Advanced Learning Coordinator Dana Silicki holds a small drone as Eli Farmer and Ian Yeatts (left to right) synchronize the controller to the drone.

Photo 2:  IALR Senior Scientist Scott Lowman demonstrates to a group of campers how an automated SMART table operates and provides important data to scientists for agricultural research purposes.