Tech Adventure Camp

Tech Adventure Camp

Has everything from forensics to aerospace engineering.

Roslyn Brown, 12, a Franklin Middle seventh-grader, attended Tech Adventure Camp at The Chantilly Academy for the first time, but it won't be her last.

"It's fun since we get to do more than one thing — Techno Kitchen, CSI and stuff like that," she said. Her favorite class was Techno Kitchen because she likes cooking. "We got to make pizza, and everybody got to pick their favorite topping. We also made Popsicle-stick cookies and learned how to prevent food poisoning and cut correctly with a knife."

Roslyn said she'd recommend the camp to others because she knows "a lot of people who'd like the stuff we do here. I plan to come back next year."

The camp ran from July 12-23, weekdays, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Besides cooking, students also took courses called Lights, Camera, Advertising; Extreme Engineering; Mission Aerospace; CSI Forensics and ER. They learn about possible careers, as well as classes they might like to take in high school.

Camp Principal Bryan Holland said this summer's 160 students was the largest enrollment ever — and the camp's limit. He attributed it to word of mouth from past students, as well as now allowing sixth-graders (not just middle-schoolers and freshmen) to attend.

"We're finding out the younger kids are getting more out of the camp than some of the older kids," he said. "They come in with no opinions or preconceptions." But Holland credited the camp's success to its "six fantastic teachers — they are the camp. They're so personable and really want to be here, and the kids pick up on that. The academy classes advertise themselves, and it's a great way to entertain kids while educating them."

Kathleen Taylor, the camp's assistant principal, said the subjects taught here translate well, later on, to high school. "It's a great way for the county to showcase some of these higher-level electives," she said. "And the way they're presented, there's a real camp 'feel' and mentality that's a departure from the school year. You can tell the students are enjoying themselves; there's a camaraderie among them that's evident in their behavior."

RANDALL JACOBSON, who teaches digital photography at Fairfax High's academy, taught Lights, Camera, Advertising. Students made ads on the computer, using Adobe Photoshop and Publisher, like in real life. They chose products and created ad campaigns, logos and ideas of how to sell them. They also named them and made business cards.

Jacobson enjoys teaching there because "it's fun and hands-on, and several kids I taught at Tech Adventure Camp, years ago, I'm now teaching at The Fairfax Academy. So it's a side benefit: You already have a tie to the kids, and they get to see different career ideas."

Chris Dolan, 13, a Franklin eighth-grader, made an advertisement for "The Amazing Ghettonator." It looks like a cell-phone headset but, he said, "I made it control a robot. I learned that you can make a product sound like it does something, but following through on that is difficult."

He had such a good time at camp last year, that he'd returned for a second time to see what was new. He, too, would recommend it to others because "it's fun and you get pizza at lunch. And you can learn a lot and can take your work home and continue on with it."

Andrew Adere, 12, a Liberty seventh-grader, invented a pretend product called Mega Ball Extreme — a softball that could be used as is or as a hairdryer, grenade launcher or GPS system. "And it glows in the dark and comes in 25 different colors," he said.

He named his company Super Dragons Inc. and wrote its name inside a blue ball for his ad. He liked the class because "you got to use different programs on the computer. I learned how to use Microsoft Publisher and Photoshop and how to make an ad and business cards."

Christina Grieco, a Rocky Run seventh-grader, attended camp for the third year. "It's cool," she said. "CSI was the best thing. We learned handcuffing, fingerprinting and about guns and different kinds of bullets. It's a criminal-justice course." She also likes camp because "you get to meet kids from other schools."

SHE RECOMMENDED it to her neighbor, Diksha Gupta, who'll also attend Rocky Run. If she hadn't gone, said Diksha, she'd be "just sitting around, watching TV or trying to find someone to play with." Instead, in Extreme Engineering, she and others "made cars from scratch, out of foam stuff and put a raw egg inside. Then we'll crash it and see if the egg breaks. If it does, we didn't make it safe enough and maybe we should add more bumpers and different wheels."

In Mission Aerospace, she enjoyed making a rocket and a foam airplane and testing them out. And in CSI Forensics, she learned "if a criminal comes into your house, how to take their fingerprints and give them to the police so they can find out who it is."

Centreville High freshman Ben Fritzke, 14 1/2, liked advertising class because "it was something everybody could do." He said the camp's good because "it gives you an idea of what you could do, if you decided to go into any of these fields."

Rocky Run eighth-grader Jessica Mullins, 12 1/2, liked CSI best because "Mr. Keaton is awesome, the class is cool and the last group of every class looks for people in the darkroom. It shows how your mind plays tricks on you."

It was also Kara Rhodes' favorite course. A Franklin Middle eighth-grader, she said, "The teacher was really funny, and I didn't know anything about [the subject] before." She loved the camp and would recommend it because she "met a lot of new friends."

A retired, Fairfax County police officer, Ron Keaton teaches criminal justice at The Chantilly Academy. In CSI Forensics, he taught the students scale drawing to illustrate where cars were in a traffic accident. And he showed them how to lift latent fingerprints, handcuff people and do a gunshot-pattern analysis.

"I tell them about the Miranda rights and where they came from," said Keaton. "And they learn how to do grid searches and will try to find small items, such as a bracelet and a paperclip, in the grass. The class lets them get a wide view of careers in this field to see if they might be interested in them."

Meanwhile, in Techno Kitchen, students were cooking up a storm. Besides pizza and cookies, they also made French toast and a savory snack mix. Jennifer Pluchinsky, 12, a Liberty seventh-grader, likes helping her mom cook dinner, so she especially enjoyed the class. Said Jennifer: "I liked making French toast and sausages because it was fun dipping the bread into the cinnamon, eggs and milk mixture and watching it cook."

"IT'S COOL to be in a real kitchen and see how things work," added John Session, 12, a Rocky Run seventh-grader. "I learned about cross-contamination — like if you have raw chicken on a plate, don't put the cooked chicken back on that plate without washing it. And we learned how different herbs smell." His favorite part was "when we were washing dishes because we were all working together and having a good time."

"We're teaching them quick and easy recipes they can do at home, with minimal help," explained instructional assistant Katie Noesner. For example, the snack mix contained Chex® mix, popcorn, peanuts and pretzels with a butter/cinnamon sauce with a touch of hot sauce and cayenne pepper. "You mix it all together and bake it in the oven," she said.

Noesner believes the class was a hit because "it makes the kids feel a little more grown up. Most of them are coming from elementary school, so they haven't taken teen-living classes, yet. This gives them exposure to try out these classes [in advance]."

In another part of the school, Sean Crane, 14, practiced bandaging Timothy Yoshihara's "bleeding" arm in E.R. class. "We're also learning splinting, CPR, first aid and rescue breathing," said Sean, a Chantilly High freshman. "CPR has chest compressions but, if someone has a pulse but isn't breathing, you give them breaths [only]."

The instructor, Chad Lehman, teaches health and sports medicine at Chantilly, and Sean said he's "energetic and puts a fun spin on learning — as all the teachers here do." He also liked getting hands-on experience. "We get to use the mannequins and gauze," he said. "It's not like most classes where you just listen and take notes. Here, you watch it, you do it."

Sean said anyone "who's more brains than brawn" will like Tech Adventure Camp. I'm definitely coming back, next year. We even get a first-aid kit to keep."

Both sixth-graders at Bull Run Elementary, Taylor O'Hara, 10, and Andy Cho, 11, were partners making a crash-test car in Extreme Engineering. "It'll go against a wall at 10-15 mph to see if an egg inside it can survive," explained Taylor. "Then it'll be hit with the teacher's 'car' — which is pretty much a block of wood."

Their car's chassis was also a wooden block. "It has two Styrofoam® pieces for the body, four wheels, two axles and a foam chair with Velcro® safety restraints, plus several cushions, for the egg," added Andy.

"IT'S INTERESTING building stuff and seeing how it turns out," said Taylor. "We learned a car's safety features and what to look for in safety when buying a car," said Andy. And, said Taylor, "It shows you the importance of wearing your seatbelt."

In Mission Aerospace, teacher Bruce O'Loughlin taught students rocketry and flight. They made model rockets from packaging tape and cardboard and launched them so they'd learn "the importance of design on wind flow." And their homemade foam airplanes taught them about aerodynamics and "how the shape of the wing is important to the airplane's lift."

Rocky Run eighth-grader Sam Gardill liked seeing how well his rocket held up, and classmate Austin Chang said learning how things fly is "helpful if you wanna be a pilot or engineer. And it was fun building and launching a rocket."