UW Summer Camp Goes Virtual to Teach Science

COVID-19 didn’t stop the sixth annual The Artful Craft of Science (TACoS) summer camp, led by Andrea Burrows, University of Wyoming College of Education associate dean for undergraduate programs and an associate professor.

In fact, this year’s virtual camp doubled its capacity from 40 students to 80, providing kits full of materials, video instruction and teachers available to answer questions.

Sponsored by MilliporeSigma and Wyoming EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), TACoS welcomes rising fifth and sixth grade students. Usually taught in person at UW’s Laramie campus, the virtual camp, this year, made it possible also to include students from Riverton, Centennial and Rock Springs.

“The central goal is to introduce students to chemistry and microbes through art and inquiry activities,” Burrows says.

MilliporeSigma is dedicated to making research and biotech production simpler, faster and safer. The company has an office in Laramie. Through the partnership, TACoS highlights chemistry. This year, Trina Kilty, a UW postdoctoral research associate, helped students learn the chemistry of geology through mining with rocks provided in the kit. Students found magnetic rocks and tested for nickel.

Another project, led by Bailey Russel, a UW associate lecturer, involved using cutouts of microbes to create photograms using photosensitive paper. Rene Williams, of EPSCoR partner Science Loves Art, also led a lesson connecting painting to microbes and making origami.

Students learned about computer science and programming from Ph.D. student Mason Johnson, supported by Mike Borowczak, a UW assistant professor of computer science. In the lessons, they built micro:bit sensors to look at moisture in biodegradable pots growing radish seeds.

Burrows says the weeklong virtual camp went incredibly smoothly, and the feedback has all been positive thus far.

Students can continue their learning with access to MilliporeSigma’s Curiosity Labs at Home activities at www.sigmaaldrich.com/life-science/curiosity-labs.html.