Summer STEM & Design Camp Class Topics 2018


Weekly schedule:  Each day of our camp is composed of four instruction blocks of 65 minutes each. Most STEM & Design Camp Class topics are one block each day. We ask that all new campers take the Introduction to Robotics topic, which uses two blocks per day. Depending on the duration of topics chosen, campers can take 2, 3 or 4 topics in a week of camp. Formal instruction happens Monday-Thursday for most topics. On Fridays, campers are allowed to try out topics they were not able to during the week and spend more time on topics of their choice by getting extra help, working with other campers, finishing group projects, etc. On Fridays we also offer special presentations by visitors and camp instructors on various topics and possibly tours of the JJ McCarthy Observatory on the school campus.

Choosing camp topics:  When you register for our full day camp and have paid the deposit, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to a Topic Interest Survey form. This form allows you to indicate and rate your interest in up to 8 STEM & Design Camp Class topics. Campers will attend between 2 and 4 topics during their week of camp, depending on the number of period blocks required for their choices. All topic choices will be fulfilled to the greatest extent possible. Campers will usually have both of at least their top 2 choices. We do not guarantee that a camper will get all of their top choices. We reserve the right to remove a topic or change its scope depending on staff availability and how soon we receive camper topic interest responses. Early return of your topic preferences will increase your chance of having your top choices filled. The deadline for returning this survey is May 15 but earlier responses will help us to plan our staffing. Those registering after May 15 must return the survey within 1 week.

Prerequisite abilities:  Be sure that your student meets any prerequisite abilities mentioned for desired topics.

Questions about topics can be asked by email to or by phone to 860-717-4319.

Changes to camper topic interests:  Student interest in topics may change after the survey is submitted. We will accommodate changes as much as possible. Full day campers will receive a final schedule at least one week before their camp week starts. On the Topic Interest Survey form, be sure to read and understand all of the text, including the schedule for Monday-Thursday and Friday. On Fridays, we allow students to spend their time on their favorite topics or special presentations by visitors or our instructors, or a tour of the JJ McCarthy Observatory on the school campus.

Computers used in camp:  Computers are provided to all students during the camp. We encourage students to bring their own laptops so they can have help with software installation problems and have their work saved and available at home for continued work.

Extra material fees:  Several topics involve an extra materials fee. Some are required (such as for Drones) or optional (such as for Microcontrollers). Those fees are indicated in the topic descriptions and are paid ahead of the camp once a camper’s spot in that topic is confirmed. You will receive an email confirmation with payment options.

Student software accounts:  Several topics require that an online account be created for software so the student can continue their work outside of the camp. Your camper registration form allows you to provide that email account address and it will also be requested on your topic choice form.



Introduction to Robotics with LEGO NXT (expand for details)

4 days, 2 blocks/day. All ages. Required for students new to our camp unless excused by permission. Create robots and learn fundamentals of programming and engineering with LEGO’s programmable NXT bricks, motors, sensors and Mindstorms software. Students work through a series of challenges with the highest being to build and program a robot to navigate a maze by itself. Students accomplishing those steps early can take on higher level challenges with the NXT robot system of their own design or prepared by the instructors, or move on to the LEGO EV3 system and programming.

Intermediate Robotics with VEX and/or NXT and/or EV3 robotics systems (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. May choose for two blocks/day with permission. Ages 12+ or by permission and prior experience with LEGO NXT or EV3 or VEX robotics. Individual and/or group projects for advanced students wanting to explore larger and more complex robots. Robot systems include LEGO NXT and EV3 and VEX. Programming is done with Mindstorms or RobotC. This topic is especially good for students wanting to join or increase skills for a FIRST Lego League (FLL) or FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team, or who want to learn a C-based language and have a fun way to apply it.


Build Your Own Drone (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 11+ or by permission. Students will learn about the engineering and science that make drone helicopters possible, learn about applications for drones and discuss problems caused by drone technology. Each student will build a remote controlled drone they will keep, while learning soldering techniques, see 3D design software designs created for the body of the drone and see the drone bodies fabricated on our 3D printers. Materials fee: $60. Students requesting this topic will receive confirmation of acceptance into the topic and payment instructions.


Electronic Circuit Basics and Soldering (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day.  Ages 10+ or by permission. Learn the basics of simple circuits and soldering electrical components like resistors, capacitors and LED lights onto circuit boards and see them work. Students will work with a breadboard to make circuits without soldering and also learn to solder using commercially produced boards designed by current mentors and former mentors now engineers working at Apple. Also Available: Students can bring their own electronic soldering projects to the camp to work on and have assistance as needed. Materials fee: $20. Students requesting this topic will receive confirmation of acceptance into the topic and payment instructions.

Intermediate Circuit Design and Fabrication (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 12+ or by permission. Circuit boards are the heart of every electronic device we encounter. In this class, you will learn about every step of the process, from design to prototyping to fabrication. Materials fee: $20. Students requesting this topic will receive confirmation of acceptance into the topic and payment instructions.

  • learn about the many steps involved in manufacturing printed circuit boards with hands on work and a virtual tour of commercial fabrication processes.
  • start with a simple circuit and the simple electrical equations and math involved to make sure that the circuit will operate correctly and safely.
  • learn how breadboards work by actually creating that same circuit, testing it and making electrical measurements to compare with your math.
  • create the same circuit using perforated board and soldering.
  • learn basics of free circuit design software such as Eagle to design the circuit on a computer.  You will have a professionally made version of the circuit, designed by Robotics And Beyond and fabricated by a circuit board manufacturer, and solder the devices onto the board and see it work.

Microcontrollers: the heart of robotics and electronics (with Arduino) (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 12+ or by permission. Keyboarding and programming experience is helpful but not required. This class describes the controller boards that are at the heart of the Internet of Things. Students learn what to consider when choosing one type of controller over another (such as an Arduino vs. a Raspberry Pi). It also describes what kinds of boards might be available in the near future. Students will work with several versions of Arduino or Arduino-type controllers, learn how to connect them to a computer and program them using C-based language to control lights, sound and motors. The class involves an optional Materials Fee of $60 for students to keep a complete Arduino kit to keep the Arduino kit they use in camp and continue using at home after the camp ends. Students requesting this topic will receive confirmation of acceptance into the topic and payment instructions.

Raspberry Pi: A new dimension in computers (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day plus an optional extra project on Friday. Ages 12+ or by permission. NOTE: this topic may not be offered in every week of camp. A Raspberry Pi is a fully functional computer that is the size of a deck of cards. The Pi needs only a keyboard, mouse and monitor to be used for many purposes including game development and coding in various languages. In this class, students will learn the construction and capabilities of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer, the Linux operating system used and how it compares with typical desktop or laptop computers, common uses such as internet browsers and programming in Scratch, and linking with Arduino microcontrollers. On Fridays, students have the option of learning about using Mathematica on the Pi for many math and graphing functions and continuing with other activities with the Pi. Students wanting a complete Raspberry Pi kit (not including keyboard, mouse, or monitor) can buy one from Robotics And Beyond at a cost of $90, or purchase their own from CanaKit. Students requesting this topic will receive confirmation of acceptance into the topic and payment information for the optional kit.


Graphic Design and Animation (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day.  Ages 9+. No keyboarding skills required. Explore true artistic graphic design, in 2-dimensions, with the free software FireAlpaca and/or GIMP and learn to create animations of your work. Students will create their own account for their projects and be able to continue using the software at home. FireAlpaca and GIMP are an open-source graphic art alternative to Photoshop and have the added benefit of animation, and are a great way to start learning about graphic art software in general. See the Fire Alpaca website for more information.

Videography - LEVEL 1 (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day plus optional time on Friday to finish and show to the entire camp. Ages 8-12. Create an original video!  Work as a team to brainstorm ideas for skits and other features. Use live action, stop motion and special effects. Help with editing and share your project with the entire camp on Friday and have it hosted on the Robotics And Beyond YouTube channel. This is one of our most popular topics.

Videography - LEVEL 2 (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day plus optional time on Friday to finish and show to the entire camp.  Ages 12+ or by permission. A new topic for the camp, going deeper into video and cinematography concepts and methods. Learn about directing and production roles, terminology and methods used in filming and producing videos or movies. Work as a group to film activities and interviews in the camp or create an original script, discuss the final content and editing and present the result to the entire camp. Have it hosted on the Robotics And Beyond YouTube channel.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and 3D Printing - LEVEL 1 (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day.  Ages 10+ or by permission. For students with no or little experience with CAD and 3D printing. Learn the fundamentals of 3D design using Autodesk Inventor, including functions of the software and many important terms used by designers, machinists and engineers. Learn how a 3D printer actually works, create a 3D model, and have it printed. Instructions for setting up an Autodesk account and downloading software.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and 3D Printing - LEVEL 2 (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 12+ or by permission and prior experience with CAD. For students with who have already learned fundamental methods and vocabulary of CAD and 3D printing. Using Autodesk Inventor, learn to create engineering drawings, more complicated assemblies, stress and strength analysis tools and other higher level skills. Students can also use ideas of their own as they learn and apply the skills they learn. Fridays allow still more time for independent work and help as needed. Computers and software are provided. Campers can bring a laptop and we will attempt to install the software so it can be used at home but those students must have an email account they can use to set up a 3-year Autodesk student account at no charge. Instructions for setting up an Autodesk account and downloading software. (NOTE: a higher level of CAD is offered in our STEM & Design Academy summer program.)

Architectural Design (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 11+ or by permission. Students will learn to use basic tools of Autodesk software “Revit” as they learn about principles of architectural design such as space, form, scale, function, aesthetics and other important aspects of design. Instructions for setting up an Autodesk account and downloading software.


Programming with Scratch (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 8+ or by permission. No keyboard skills necessary. Students should create a Scratch account at home before the class or provide an email address that can be used to create an account in the camp. Scratch is a “drag and drop” programming language developed at MIT. It is free and easily used with no risk of downloads to a computer as it is done completely online. Scratch is excellent for learning all of the fundamental concepts of programming in any language and suitable for very young as well as older students.  However, Scratch can also be used to create very complex programs for games and simulations in many subjects like physics, math, computers, and engineering. Students will create their own personal Scratch account, learn how to begin and save projects, create simple programs, find interesting projects online and see their actual code, and understand and change the code to change the outcome of the program. For more information about Scratch and to create an account go to

Programming with Python (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block each day. Ages 11+ or by permission. Some keyboard (typing) ability is important for this class. Python is an excellent first language for text-based coding and for learning fundamentals of programming  and is also becoming the Language-of-Choice at more and more universities for introducing programming concepts and skills. Python is also very valuable for careers and personal interests. Python is a common language for Linux-based operating systems, for Raspberry Pi microcomputers. This class begins with an introduction to the four basic concepts common to every language of programming. Students will work through a series of exercises to understand the concepts and begin to learn the Python language syntax and structure. Following this class, students will be ready for more advanced classes in Python or be well prepared to begin learning other programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, C or HTML with us, in school or online. Visit the Python website to download the required software to program in Python and to learn more about it. Visit our Suggested Reading page for more information on Python.

Programming with Java - LEVEL 1 (expand for details)

4 days, one 1 block/day. Ages 12+ or by permission. Some keyboard (typing) ability is important for this class. Java is a widely used language for many server and web applications and is also the basis for Advanced Placement (AP) programming and computer science classes in high school and many college classes. It is the most popular programming language for running the operations of businesses, schools and other organizations and is used on more than one billion devices worldwide. Students will begin learning the Java language and syntax with simple programs of 5-20 lines. After learning the basics, continue with more complex and longer programs to build your knowledge of syntax, program structure and fundamental programming concepts.

Programming with Java - LEVEL 2 (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 12+ or by permission. Prior experience with Java or another text programming language is required. Some keyboard (typing) ability is important for this class. Students will gain more experience with Java using Minecraft mods as the example. Students will create more complex and longer programs to build a knowledge of important vocabulary, coding grammar (syntax), program structure and fundamental programming concepts as they work with existing mods. At the end of the class students will not be able to create their own original Minecraft mods in Java because that takes more experience than is possible in such a short class. However, students will gain a very good appreciation for what a mod in Java involves and be well prepared to continue learning on their own with Minecraft mod tutorials or other examples available online.


Game Development with GameSalad (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 10+. No keyboarding skills are required. GameSalad is a free software package that allows easy use of character and objects to design, test and play video games. Students will learn about important concepts like game strategy, layout, progression and character creation. Along with experience in any “C”-based language, this is a good class to prepare for text-based game development software like Unity or Unreal Engine. Learn more by visiting the GameSalad website.

Server Construction (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Ages 11+ or by permission. No keyboarding skills required. Minecraft is used to teach fundamentals of setting up and operating a game server such as: the hardware that servers require, the setup of an internet server, and the software components and skills that are needed to make a server run, host multiple users and create a fun game environment for the players. This is great preparation for trying to create your own server at home and for pursuing computer science in high school or college. On Fridays, the server and game maps created during the week will be offered to the entire camp and run by the class that created it.


Mixed Activities (expand for details)

4 days, 1 block/day. Any age. A number of technical and non-technical outdoor and indoor activities (depending on weather and preference). Great for campers to interact with a wide age range of peers. Examples: outdoor kickball, 4-square; team-building exercises; computer keyboarding skills; computer construction and operation.