Magnet camp draws pupils

Education: Howard County middle-schoolers are spending a week learning about a range of careers from health to communications.

June 21, 2000|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

While many of their friends are sleeping in, hanging out or just enjoying the break from school, 127 Howard County middle school children are getting up early this week to attend the Technical Magnet Camp at the Applications and Research Laboratory in Ellicott City.

The experience is geared to pupils interested in exploring careers in technology. Three years ago, low enrollment forced cancellation of the one-week tech magnet camp, operated by the Howard County school system. This year, however, it is full - with every middle school represented, along with private school and home-schooled pupils.

Natalie Meyers, instructional facilitator for the Technology Magnet Program, said the increased enrollment "shows that students are interested in trying to find out [earlier] what they want to be when they grow up." They are participating in education programs that explore careers.

Guest chef and mentor Eric Queen was working in a large kitchen Monday - the first day of camp - and supervising about 10 pupils who were making cookies and pound cakes. Queen attended the program 20 years ago and loves his job at the Chop House Restaurant in Washington. His goal for this group is to make cooking fun.

"One bright spot to being a chef is getting to eat your own cooking," he said.

The culinary techniques class is part of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism "cluster," one of five areas to which pupils will rotate each day. Each cluster consists of instruction in a specified field and a hands-on team project in which a product is created to take home.

The format "helps to give kids an experience of what it's like to be in a tech magnet program," Meyers said.

In the Biotechnology/Health cluster, youngsters worked with simulated DNA to solve the mystery of an unknown soldier by fingerprinting (electrophoresis) techniques. A mini-health fair designed by 11th-grade tech magnet students from Long Reach and River Hill high schools taught various health field skills, including lung capacity measurement, body fat testing and first aid.

Joe Coppolino, Eric Meissner and Stephen Roberts, all 13, were laughing and joking with plastic "wounds" as they practiced bandaging and splint techniques.

Nearby, Meera Cheerharan read an eye chart manned by Stephanie Mangus. Meera wants to be a chiropractor, and Stephanie has decided to focus on biotechnology/health services in high school. She set her sights on a medical career at age 7.

The communications cluster consisted of data and visual portions. The data section taught pupils about computer components and how to set up network computers.

Clayton Alexander and James Oleinik, who attend Burleigh Manor Middle School, enjoyed setting up a computer and starting Windows 95.

The visual portion consisted of using graphics arts software (Corel Draw) to create artwork and apply transfer decals.

The Construction and Manufacturing cluster taught designing and building bridges to be tested for structural integrity and design. Josh Holbert worked diligently to glue his bridge together and hoped it would hold weight when tested. He built a bridge in sixth grade that held 14 pounds, and he wanted to improve on its strength this year.

Carbon dioxide dragster cars designed by the pupils and built from a wedge of wood in the Energy, Power and Transportation cluster will be raced at the end of the week to test for speed and distance. Janelle Dionne designed her car long, thin and curved and hopes it will race well.

Meyers said the decision to enter a tech magnet program is a major one. The camp focuses on seventh-graders who, during eighth-grade, will decide whether to register for a tech magnet program in high school.

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