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If you can’t camp, Un-camp

College of Science Summer camps brought the Science to the kids this year

You might think that summer camps, conducted via Zoom video sessions, might lack the usual grist and grit of in-person science camps on a college campus. True, this year’s College of Science “Un-Camps” were not exactly the same as in-person camps of years past, but they had a lot of the same things you’d expect at a summer science camp.

The kids, ranging from fifth to 11th grade, took part in 17 different one-hour long “camps.” The camps featured some of the same tantalizing questions, fun interactions, sounds and even smells of in-person camps.

For instance, take the computer simulation “Battle of the Bacteria” in which kids pitted different types of bacteria against each other to fight for their very existence in different growing conditions.

“That session was wildly popular,” said Victoria Corbin, the assistant dean of outreach in the College of Science who organized the camps. “The kids loved testing different bacteria against each other and didn’t want to get off the Zoom session.”

The Un-Camps ran from June 21 to July 21. The camps attracted more than 330 (we had 333) kids with topics such as: “Nanoscience and Bucky Balls,” “Game-O-Nomics: Playing Games and Strategic Thinking,” “Natures Smells and Scents,” and “Sugar Rush,” a session about what happens to your body when you eat.

“The kids in the strategic gaming session will never lose another game of tic-tac-toe,” Corbin said, “unless they want to let someone win.”

She noted that the virtual camps had the advantage of enabling the College of Science to open them up to anyone with a computer connection. While the camps attracted primarily attendees from Virginia, others came from Pennsylvania and Georgia, as well as overseas countries, India and Indonesia.

The College of Science holds science-based discovery camps each summer, normally in person on campus. Registration begins in March.