Education Technology

Looking for a STEM Solution for Your Camps This Summer?

Posted 05/13/2022 by Stacy Thibodeaux (@stacythib)

If you are a teacher like me, you probably always have lots of ideas. I certainly do! Thank goodness I also have a circle of friends that share my passion and help me bring those ideas full circle. Many of my ideas seem to have a common theme: Provide fun, learning, engaging, real-world experiences for my students both in and out of the classroom’s four walls. During the typical school day, we as classroom teachers are often limited to somewhat canned activities that are part of our required curriculum or scope/sequence from our district. That’s where summer camps come into the picture. The flexibility of summer yields the perfect chance to continue and/or accelerate learning for our students. If you, your school or your district, are considering hosting STEM and coding camps this summer, take a look at for ideas, downloadable lessons, instructional videos, and even learn how to borrow everything you need to do the projects.

Getting started
I was first introduced to STEM projects and the support that TI can offer when I hosted my own STEM camp through a GEAR UP grant in the summer of 2018. I had the TI-Nspire™ CX graphing calculators and TI-Innovator™ Hubs in my classroom and had used them with my STEM club after school. My district GEAR UP office asked me if I would host and lead a camp for sixth through ninth grade students. I reached out to the TI STEM Team and borrowed additional equipment to host a camp of 35 young and eager students who wanted more than what their current coding opportunities were in their schools. One tiny issue that I should probably explain: I had no coding experience prior to working with TI and the TI STEM Team. Okay, I took a Fortran class in 1993 and don’t remember a single thing, except the sound of the dot matrix printer printing my program to turn into my teacher. I am a classroom chemistry teacher by trade and found an interest in coding and STEM because of the possibilities for students this avenue has on their future.

I started learning how to use TI technology — the TI-Nspire™ CX graphing calculator, the TI-Innovator™ Hub and coding — by going through the TI Codes website. I started that year using TI-Basic, and I have now switched to coding in Python on the TI-Nspire™ CX II graphing calculator. The TI Codes website walks you, a new or experienced user, through units of the foundations of what the language means, the menu-driven options for coding, and student projects at the end of each unit. In a STEM camp scenario, these units can be done with students during the learning phase of the morning session, and then in the late morning or afternoon session, you can add in the application (project) from each unit of the 10 Minutes of Code. Below is a picture of Unit 1, Project Traffic Light.

Students program an RGB LED on the TI-Innovator™ Hub with pause statements based on a real-world traffic light, providing a sound output when the light is red, and allowing a pedestrian to know it is safe to walk across the street.

Once you are comfortable with the 10 Minutes of Code applications (projects), and are ready for more, you could try one of the STEM projects. For FREE, the TI STEM Team will lend you the equipment, provide instructional videos, and even jump on a Zoom call with you should you need more assistance. Two of my favorite introductory projects to work through with students are the Digital Mood Ring and Coding the Sounds of Music.

The mood ring uses input from a temperature sensor, in a conditional statement, to code the color of the RGB LED built in on the TI-Innovator™ Hub. Students can then add a print statement within the if, else conditional statement to determine the “mood” they are feeling based on temperature and RGB LED color.

This is the Coding the Sounds of Music project. This project engages students by challenging them to program sounds and songs!

TI can help
The TI STEM Team has made it very manageable for any teacher to host a STEM camp in their own school. No matter what your level of comfort is with coding and STEM, the TI STEM Team is there for you and your students. People often ask me, “Why are you so passionate about teaching coding/programming in camps or in the context of a STEM classroom?” My response is always the same. My students, our students today, are in competition for a job in the marketplace that has not even been created yet. As teachers, we are not just content deliverers. We must look to the future and plan the context of our students’ learning for what will benefit them when they leave us. The occupational outlook for the next 10 years includes careers/jobs that all have some background in computer science skills, problem-solving, troubleshooting and teamwork. Coding/programming is an engaging way to cover a multitude of skills, and students may even have a little fun while learning. Take it from me: Using TI’s STEM Projects resources for your camps is a time-saving, tried-and-true way to start this process for your students. Summer + STEM = sensational learning opportunities!

About the author: Stacy Thibodeaux is a T³™ Science National Instructor. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is currently at Southside High School in Youngsville, Louisiana, where she teaches all levels of chemistry I and II and a newly created Introduction to Robotics course. She was awarded the T³™ Leadership Award in 2022. She uses TI technology to assist her teaching, robotics course implementation, data collection, and modeling math concepts, linking them to science content.