Chemistry Professor Daniel Ess was looking for a summer science camp to enroll his 10-year-old daughter in when he encountered a problem—there weren’t any rigorous science camps offered in Utah Valley for kids in his daughter’s age group.
With an overall lack of science camps targeting girls, Ess collaborated with fellow chemistry faculty Jennifer Nielson, Rebecca Sansom and Kara Stowers to create their own camp.
“The four of us decided to make this camp for upper elementary school students so that we can fill a gap in available programs for youth,” said Sansom. “It is especially important to support girls’ interest during this age because this is frequently the time when their interest drops off.”
Because of the concern about girls losing interest in science, one of the big goals of the inaugural BYU Chem Camp was to have equal participation of girls and boys ages 9-12.
Stowers said they received an overwhelming response when registration opened in February and all the slots were filled by March.
The three-day camp focuses on three major chemistry themes: medicine, materials and food. Campers learn about the themes through hands-on experiments such as extracting DNA from strawberries, designing Alka Seltzer rockets and making foam fountains.
The professors were impressed by how much the children already knew and by the insightful questions the children asked.
“We quickly realized that we can probably push the boundaries and do more sophisticated experiments with the children,” Ess said. “The experiments this year were good, but I think we can do even better in the future.”
Because the 2016 BYU Chem Camp has been so successful, the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry intends to continue the camp in coming years.