By Kathleen Schofield, Executive Director, Northeast Florida’s STEM2 Hub
On a sunny Saturday morning, the last place you would expect to find our STEM team would be at a football field nestled beside the Police Athletic League in Jacksonville, but that is exactly where we were – The Calais Campbell – Jax PAL -STEM Football Camp.
At the camp, sponsored by Calais Campbell, Defensive End, Jacksonville Jaguars, almost 500 kids came out to drill and learn new moves under the coaching of Campbell and half a dozen other players on the Jaguars football team.
But football was not the only game being played that day! Inside the building, students rotated through multiple centers giving students introductory exposure to STEM programs and skills. Partners, including LEGO Education and Microsoft participated by bringing their equipment – computers, robots, drones, and the latest in HoloLens and mixed reality, so that these athletes could engage with and pick up new skills and learn how to continue their learning in these areas after the camps.
One of the highlights of the day was a visit to the Hacking STEM Brain Gong Concussion Simulator experience, developed by the Hacking STEM Team at Microsoft. Students learned about the regions of the brain and their functions from a local orthopedic surgeon and a neuroscientist from the local university. Then, they experimented with a model that had been built to visualize, in real-time, what happens when the brain collides with the skull. This helped students understand the science behind the concussions, and the reason why helmet safety is so important, all while being exposed to live data collection, and how technology can empower them to learn and explore!
Another highlight was the drone flying competition. After everyone got a chance to fly a drone, teams formed to compete by flying through an obstacle course. And the Jaguars joined right in, learning a new skill right alongside these young athletes! Each session was tied to career awareness in the tech sector and the jobs of the future! Athletes learned how gaining these new skills could jumpstart their earning about emerging careers in the context of sports! Due to the great number of volunteers and community partners who came out to help, students were able to work in small groups, deepening their engagement in each of the activities. In our ecosystem, when we work as a team, we ALL win!