Ninjas, robots among themes for WSU Tri-Cities summer camps

By Ty Beaver Tri-City HeraldJune 5, 2014 

WSU Tuition Hikes

Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

Move over mountain hikes and campfire ghost stories: Robotics, ninjas and video gaming are making a pitch for their share of summer camp kids.

As many as 330 kids could attend a series of full-day and half-day camps at Washington State University Tri-Cities in July, organizers said.

One camp session on video game development has already filled up after information leaked about it.

WSU Tri-Cities ran the popular summer camp program, which had a science, technology, engineering and technology, or STEM, flavor for 13 years until summer 2011, said LoAnn Ayers of the university's Office of Strategic Partnership.

University officials stopped offering the camps because the Richland campus needed to be used for other events and programs in the summer, she said.

However, Chancellor H. Keith Moo-Young, who arrived about a year ago, pushed for the camps to return.

This summer's programs will be geared for middle school students and offer about half as many openings as previous camp programs. But organizers said they expect strong interest could lead to expanded offerings in the future.

"Anything we can do for structured activities for kids during the summer is good," said Erik Ralston, a web and mobile developer working with the camp program.

A little more than half of the camps are full-day programs and the rest are half-day with either a morning or afternoon session. All of them run for a week at a time on the Richland campus and serve 24 to 30 children.

Certified teachers are involved in each program but so are volunteer professionals from engineers to scientists.

Many of the camps still have a STEM focus, such as "Physics of the Ninja," "Power The Future" and "Robots Rule."

A few others though have an outdoors bent, such as "Science of Survival" and "Call of the Wild," which involves studying predators by investigating their droppings and performing dissections.

Ralston was surprised to see his "Unlock the Code Behind Gaming" program fill up before even being advertised.

But there is a demand for such programming for kids, he said, especially during the summer when so many students are at risk of forgetting what they've learned in school.

It's unclear what the university will offer in future summers but if any of the early interest is a sign, Ayers said she and other officials could be looking at expansion not too far off, possibly to sites elsewhere in the Tri-Cities.

"I think it's going to be a sellout summer," she said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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