HISD summer STEM camp promotes 21st-century skills

Bailey, a rising third-grader from Travis Elementary School, wanted to grow up to be a cheerleading coach, but after just two days at HISD’s STEM Summer Camp at Heights High School, those dreams have changed. 

“I used to want to be a professional cheerleading coach, but now I want to be somebody who helps NASA,” she said. “Now, I want to work in Mission Control.” 

Bailey, along with hundreds of other students from around the district, is spending her summer break learning about robotics and coding. This is the first year for the summer program, which provides STEM-based curriculum activities for students in grades 3-12.  

The camps are hosted at seven high schools across the district, and the two-week program is provided at no cost. The program is designed to offer support and STEM education for historically underserved and underrepresented students that currently attend HISD schools. 

“We started this program after taking a look at the cost of STEM camps throughout the Houston area, and most were not attainable for many of the district’s students,” said Director for Instructional Technology Adrian Acosta. “We wanted to bring in technology that would be attainable for our students and schools to continue throughout the school year.” 

During the camp, students will learn coding and then apply those engineering and computer science skills through a STEM-centered project utilizing LEGO Education machine sets. Each day, students participate in team-building activities and receive a mission briefing for daily challenges. At the end of each daily challenge, students pair off in teams to showcase their work and learn to work through problems they may have encountered during the building process.  

“Of course, the focus of this camp is coding and building robots,” said Dogan Elementary School teacher and STEM camp instructor Yomaira Escobar. “But, the interaction between the students and the leadership skills they are building has been very special to see.”