STEM Camp student Katherine Evans watches her robot begin its journey through the obstacle course.
STEM Camp student Katherine Evans’ robot begin its journey through the obstacle course as classmates look on.

It’s the final day of STEM Camp in OCC’s Mulroy Hall and you can cut the tension with a knife. There’s a high-level competition in progress between female participants and the ultimate prize is on the line. Students have spent the week building robots in preparation for this day. They’ve programmed their robots to navigate through an obstacle course. Each time a student sends her robot into the obstacle course and doesn’t make it she hears words of encouragement and advice from instructor Scott Stagnitta. “That was good! Program the turn so it’s ten degrees more and it will work next time,” Stagnitta says. The student listens and returns to her desk to reprogram her robot. This is serious business. At the finish line rests a large pile of candy which will go to whomever can get her robot there first!

Fun coupled with learning have become annual summer traditions at OCC’s STEM Camp. It’s held the last week of July for boys and girls entering grades nine through 12 who are interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math related fields. Students spend half of each day in class learning about modern manufacturing, robotics design and programming while participating in team building experiences. During the other half of the day they take field trips to businesses and explore their relation to robotics and automation. Participating businesses include Lockheed Martin, National Grid, Schneider Packaging, Time Warner Cable News and Welch Allyn.

STEM Camp is divided by gender and finding enough girls to fill the class at times can be challenging. That’s where Girls Inc at the YWCA comes in. The organization reaches out to the community and finds girls interested in careers in science. “We go to local schools and talk about the program,” said Flavia Rey de Castro, Youth Development Director with the YWCA. “We require girls to write an essay about why they would be interested in attending the program. Along with the essay they have to submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor.” At the end of the process Girls Inc at the YWCA selects five girls to attend STEM Camp. Camp tuition is paid for through a grant from National Grid.

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Craelle Hinds is one of the students who attended thanks to Girls Inc at the YWCA and National Grid. She’ll be a freshman at West Genesee High School in the fall. “I want to be a cosmetologist and I’m very interested in learning how hair products are made. Seeing how things were put together at places like National Grid and Schneider Packaging was very interesting. I’m very grateful to Girls Inc. for helping me come to STEM Camp.”

The 2016 STEM Camp was a hit with other attendees too:

  • “This week reinforced my interest in science and showed me the career side of it. I learned what I would be doing and how I would be interacting once I completed college and was in a career. I liked seeing the manufacturing side of operations at Welch Allyn. It was interesting to see the production and creation of products.” – Liam Hawes, 9th grader at Marcellus High School
  • “I was planning on becoming either a computer programmer or an engineer. Now I’m leaning more toward becoming a mechanical engineer. All of the companies we visited use mechanical engineering. I know there are good careers there.” – Justin Kehoe, 9th grader at Cicero-North Syracuse High School
  • “I really like tech and came here and found out how much fun it was to put things together. That got me interested in mechanical engineering. Then I learned about biomedical engineering and it seemed like an interesting career for me. I really liked Welch Allyn because of the biomedical engineering connection. I also enjoyed National Grid because of the hands-on experience. We got to use tools and look at how they actually operate in the field.” –Katherine Evans, 9th grader at Westhill High School

OCC’s STEM Camp would not be possible without the generous support of National Grid. The electricity and natural gas utility contributed $10,000 to the program. National Grid also donated $5,000 to the College’s summer STEM Scholars program which helps college-aged students stay on track with their degree requirements.

You can learn more about STEM Camp by contacting the College’s Office of Lifelong Learning at (315) 498-6000 or