Recap of the Mid-Winter Break Science Camp for 5th-8th Graders

March 7, 2017

From February 21st – 24th the New York Academy of Sciences hosted its first Mid-Winter Break Science Camp for 5th – 8th graders at the Academy’s New York headquarters. Campers were able to interact and learn from a wide variety of professionals with computer science backgrounds through the outreach effort of CompTIA. With CompTIA’s support more than 25 campers were able to participate in camp through scholarships.

This camp is part of the Academy workshop series “Hack Your Health” that seeks to encourage STEM learning and dispel the myth that computer science is limited to sitting in front of a computer all day. Instead “Hack Your Health” seeks to inspire and cultivate a lifelong engagement in the STEM fields at a young age and show how much fun the STEM disciplines can be.


As part of the program students met from 9am – 5pm, where they used the free coding language Scratch to develop their own videogame that measured physicality in fun ways. Students reverse engineered and created their own online videogames using simple sensors to track their own physical movement, and became active participants in their own games. Their use of Scratch culminated in a trip to a nearby ice rink. There they met some former U.S. Winter Olympians and tried to conduct some scientific experiments to test their videogames in a real world setting.

Keeping a ball afloat

Besides Scratch students also sharpened their STEM skills with other interactive team based activities. These included a competition to build the tallest free standing tower using uncooked spaghetti, one marshmallow, a yard of tape, and a yard of string; and how to keep a small ball afloat in the air with their breath by blowing through a straw. They also learned about friction by designing a ramp with the goal of having a ball roll down the ramp as slowly as possible, and learned about surface tension by trying to float a paper clip in a cup of water.

By the end of the camp students had designed, programed, and refined their own online videogame controlled by a variety of sensors. They also learned leadership skills through STEM design challenges, improved communication skills to share scientific concepts with their peers, collaborative and engineering skills, while gaining experience in scientific problem solving.

If you have a child entering the 5th – 8th grades this summer, you should consider enrolling them in the Academy’s Summer Science Camp. Students will learn how to reverse engineer and create online videogame using Scratch. They will learn how simple sensors can track their physical movements and become active participants in their own games. Planning for this event is currently underway and the exact dates in August will be announced soon.

To be on our list for early registration to the summer camp, please send an email to