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Math, Science, and Engineering Summer Camp at UNF

For gifted and high achieving students entering 7th, 8th and 9th grade in Northeast Florida public schools. The summer camp was offered in 2005 by the University of North Florida and sponsored by the UNF Foundation, the Florida Department of Education, and the Governor’s Summer Camp Program. The camp is a collaboration among the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Chemistry, Engineering, and Curriculum and Instruction.

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Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Summer Camp 2005 at UNF

 The University of North Florida (UNF) was able to provide a first time service to forty-five gifted/high achieving students in the three surrounding counties as a result of the Governor’s Summer Program and the UNF Board Initiative Grant awarded to Drs. Cavanaugh and Al-Rubaee.  Gifted coordinators from Clay, Duval, and St. Johns counties, and UNF gifted specialist Dr. Weber met with faculty from UNF to plan and provide hands-on activities in mathematics and lab-based experiences in chemistry and engineering for a selected group of entering 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. The camp started June 20th and ended July 1st. Students engaged in creative activities started 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.   Dr. Hochwald, the chair of mathematics and statistics department at UNF, provided these gifted students with daily challenging and exciting mathematics projects. 

A sample of these projects contains the following activities;

  • Can the figure on the right be drawn without
    lifting your pencil from the paper and by going
    over every line exactly one time?       

  • Three students are seated in three chairs, one behind the other, each facing the same direction.  The three students are all excellent logicians, and each is aware that the others are excellent logicians.  The student in the back can see the heads of the two in front of him, the student in the middle can see only the head of the student in front of her, and the student in the front can see no heads.  I HAVE THREE WHITE AND TWO RED HATS.  THE STUDENTS KNOW THIS.  They close their eyes and I place a hat on each student's head.  Then they open their eyes.  I ask the student in the back if he knows the color of his hat; he says, "No."  I now ask the student in the middle if she knows the color of her hat; she says, "No."  When I now ask the student in front the same question, she says, "Yes, I know for sure that my hat is white."  How could the student in the front reach this correct conclusion?

  • Find out what weather forecasters in Jacksonville mean when they say there is a 30% chance of rain and find out how they make their prediction.

 Dr. Nix, the director of the engineering division at UNF, together with Drs. Schonning, Cox, and Giuma provided the gifted students with daily challenging and exciting engineering projects. In these hands-on activities, students were challenged as groups and individuals to develop, create, and model several engineering projects. A sample of these projects contains the following activities;

  •  Design of a toy car – Students will be given design specifications of a lever mechanism and will learn the basics of CAD modeling.  They will be divided into groups and each group will design a component of the car.  These components will be modeled in a CAD software package. 

  • Water Treatment Project –Students will develop a device to treat “polluted” water.  Each team will receive a gallon of water to which various (non-toxic) “pollutants” have been added causing the water to be turbid, and a variety of materials from which to construct the device. The challenge is to design and build a device to improve the clarity of the gallon of water within a fixed amount of time.  (Adapted from a contest held at the 2005 ASCE SE Regional Student Conference.)

John Pechonick and Melissa Bush were the leading instructors in development and delivery of the chemistry labs and computer activities.  A sample of these projects contains the following activities;

  • Molarity/Dilutions/Beer's Law

Students will learn that molarity is a measure of the moles of solute per liter of solution.  They will study the property of absorbance measured in spectrophotometers as it relates to changes in concentration.  They will learn how to construct a Beer's Law plot and apply that to the analysis of unknown solutions.   One of the unknown solutions may consist of an unknown "blood" sample to determine the concentration of a particular substance.  This technique is a valuable tool used in all of chemistry including a forensic chemist who might be solving a crime.  (This lab would be colorful)

  • Polymer Chemistry

Students will learn what polymers are and their contribution to society.  Student teams will be part of a research team working for "Boing Bouncy Ball Co" who is trying to perfect their formulation for the bounciest ball.  The goals for each team is to manipulate the basic recipe for bouncy balls to make them bouncier.  This is a really fun and competitive activity that the kids love.

These diversified and exciting activities challenged and enhanced the curiosity and interest of these gifted students in the areas of mathematics, engineering, and chemistry.  Although faculty and staff were impressed by what the students already knew, they were specifically impressed by what students were able to accomplish in the two-week camp.  Several faculties indicated that students were able to understand and master content and lessons traditionally taught to freshmen college-level students. The success of the program is best described by the question many students asked: “Can we come back next year?”


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