Full STEAM ahead: K-12 summer camps invite students to discover careers, build friendships

Opportunities in STEAM, athletics, music and adventuring abound
Abbey Goers | August 17, 2022

Erika Saindon is an artist. The upcoming senior at Albert Lea High School, in Albert Lea, Minn., loves working on anything from digital to traditional art. Last spring, when she was deciding on what to study in college, she considered her interests in graphic design, animation and art education.

Saindon’s mom, Therese, works with graphic designers who graduated from UW-Stout, which offers such programs in its School of Art and Design and School of Education.

“My parents knew that Stout was somewhat of a very artsy technical school, so they looked into a summer program for me and came across STEAM,” Saindon said.

Vanessa Stephens and Erika Saindon at Summer STEAM camp, June 2022.
Vanessa Stephens and Erika Saindon at STEAM camp / Rebecca Thacker

The Summer STEAM Experience, which was held in June, invited high school students to discover career paths in science, technology, engineering, art and math with guided activities led by UW-Stout faculty. This summer’s camp was back to being in person. 

It’s been a busy summer on campus, with approximately 800 elementary, middle and high school students attending 10 different overnight camps and clinics. Athletics hosted an additional 900 campers, and a WiFab training series brought in 15 teachers and instructors from across the state.

The Summer STEAM Experience welcomed 76 campers and 90 campers joined Junior STEAM for a variety of learning tracks.

It was at STEAM where Saindon met Vanessa Stephens, an upcoming senior at Ellsworth High School from Hager City. Stephens is interested in computer science.

This was their first time attending the camp. Saindon and Stephens enjoyed meeting new people from new places, connecting with camp counselors and learning the animation process. They quickly became friends and are looking into attending UW-Stout in fall 2023.

“We both had made friends in our track but they were day campers,” Stephens said. “At the first meal, Erika and I sat by each other and just started talking. We did arts and crafts together every day and had lots of time to talk. We learned we have a lot in common and are very similar people.”

Saindon and Stephens joined about 24 other campers in the 3D Animation track led by Senior Lecturer Jesse Woodward. Campers created animations using the same industry-standard software used by Disney Animation Studios.


3D Animation at the 2022 Summer STEAM Experience / Jesse Woodward


They learned the basics of 3D animation, including the 12 principles of animation, and how to create movement in different kinds of characters, like a bouncing ball and a pendulum. They then animated a simplified squirrel using the previous exercises to help them. Woodward gives similar assignments to his university students, he said.

“Throughout, I wanted my students to understand that animating does not mean to just move something on a screen. It’s about giving life and character to what you animate. When working in their teams, they also had the opportunity to see how an animation pipeline works and learn how to work together in a technical but creative environment,” Woodward said.

Erika Saindon's Summer STEAM camp T-shirt
Erika Saindon's decorated T-shirt / Rebecca Thacker

Campers also decorated T-shirts, and Saindon showed her drawing skills, covering their shirts in quotes, her beliefs and new friends’ portraits.

“Sometimes I'm not really even thinking while I'm drawing. I just move my pen and hope it turns out. My entire process is just to make a mark and see what happens,” Saindon said.

STEAM is coordinated through the university’s Professional Education Programs and Services. Other STEAM tracks were 3D Printing, Comics: Creative Nonfiction, Enameling on Metal, Interior Design and Metalsmithing and Jewelry.

The program is sponsored by the Eau Claire and Menomonie school districts, Xcel Energy and Parker.

Fostering Success Camp for youth

The Fostering Success Camp is for youth ages 13 to 17, who are in out-of-home care. The camp offers an opportunity for attendees to experience college on the UW-Stout campus with other foster youth from across the state.


Fostering Success Camp, 2022
Fostering Success campers / Fostering Success

“The camp is an important part of creating an educational pipeline for foster youth interested in pursuing higher education,” said Angie Ruppe, director of Student Support Services and Fostering Success, which partners with high schools across Wisconsin.

“Over the years, we have provided this experience for nearly 100 youth across Wisconsin.”

The camp took place June 17-18, for 10 registered campers. Attendees identified their personal strengths, learned about financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and attended presentations on opportunities that exist post-high school, including technical education, four-year degrees, military and job corps.

They also met with Peer Mentors, UW-Stout students and former foster youth, who led small group discussions and joined in activities like the outdoor ropes course for team-building skills.

Blue Devil Athletics and Stout Adventures camps


Men's Basketball Camp, summer 2022
Men's Basketball Camp / Blue Devil Athletics

Blue Devil Athletics camps and clinics this summer were held on campus by the Blue Devil men’s and women's basketball, football and gymnastics programs. Coaches and student athletes, ranging from elementary students to elite high school athletes.

At outlying camps across the country, Blue Devil coaches and student athletes served more than 5,700 summer campers.

Stout Adventures held three camps at their indoor and outdoor facilities led by experienced instructors. Ropes Course Exploration camp is a four-day camp for ages 10 to 14, where kids work on communication, teamwork, problem solving and confidence building.


Stout Adventures Storytime and Climb
Story Time and Climb families / Stout Adventures

Youth Climbing League is an introductory program for ages 6 to 13, open to all skill levels and experience. YCL is designed to empower kids and introduce them to the sport of climbing.

And for Story Time and Climb, Stout Adventures partners with the University Library, inviting kids ages 2 to 5 for a story, activities in the climbing wall space, working on fine motor skills and interacting with others.

From July 25-28, UW-Stout hosted the Apple Valley (Minn.) Eastview High School marching band. While the camp was self-instructed, the university provided housing, meals and practice space for the nearly 200-member band at Don and Nona Williams Stadium.

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