URBANA — At Campus Middle School for Girls this week, a summer camp highlighted science, technology, engineering and math — and showed 28 girls entering fifth through seventh grades how fun those subjects can be.
The "STEM" camp had students collaborating with experts from the University of Illinois, touring campus and applying what they learned to hands-on projects. They studied computer science, material science, nanotechnology, aerospace engineering and environmental engineering.
They used polymers and ping-pong balls to make bouncy balls, made rockets with paper and launched them with straws, measuring the distance of the launches.
"There have been too many cool things" to pick just one favorite, said Erin Preslar, an 11-year-old who will start sixth grade this year at Franklin Middle School.
She loves robotics, she said, and this week loved making a sailboat smaller than a dime with a 3D printer on campus.
She and Elaisha Stone, a 12-year-old who will be a seventh-grader at Urbana Middle School next year, spent part of Thursday afternoon researching material science and how it relates to everything else they studied during the camp.
Stone said she enjoyed learning about aerospace engineering and about how math and science are connected.
She also enjoyed learning about how computer imaging can make someone seem like they're in a room, when they're actually being captured on camera.
Preslar had fun with that one, too, because she stuck her hand through the image to make it look like it was coming out of someone's head.
While they researched, camp team leader Yenni Chandra was helping a group of students make straw rockets.
They took rectangles of paper, wrapped them tightly around pencils and added paper fins cut from a pattern and twisted the top, or nose, of the rocket.
They then put the rockets on straws, and blew, launching the rockets across the room.
Students also made cars and guessed what images were taken with a scanning electron microscope.
Camp teacher Melissa Reder said it's been a busy week.
"It's been a lot of fun," Reder said. "These girls are tired."