An op-ed on how we treat old things


Summer Science Camp: Mars Challenge

In rural Florida where I work as a librarian, many kids have trouble accessing science education. Schools are struggling. A weaker school system also means we have a large group of students who are homeschooled or who attend the Florida Virtual School, decreasing opportunities for hands-on science education in a more academic setting. In 2012, I offered Summer Science Camp for the first time. Held at the public library the week before the start of the school year, this 4 day camp offered kids age 6-12 the chance to participate in group science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities. Parents were encouraged to join in and many enthusiastically participated.

On offer were activities in computer programming, microscopes, and structural engineering, but I think the kids’ favorite was our Mars Challenge. While we were lucky to be able to hold this camp at the same time as the launch of the Curiosity rover in August 2012, it’s a great free activity for libraries, schools and parents any time of year. Since my library is in a fiscally constrained rural county, I needed to focus on activities that included publicly available teaching materials and little to no budget.


Each of my Summer Science Camp lessons started with a brief presentation that helped prepare kids to think about the challenge ahead. As you’ll see from the embedded PowerPoint, the lectures have a strong teaching/speaking component, supported by pictures and short videos. This is a good way to help younger kids engage with a PowerPoint presentation. After the jump, see a brief slide-by-slide description of the kinds of things that I talked about. For this lesson to hold the kids’ attention, the speaker should move quickly, use his or her own words, and spend less than a minute on each slide. Battledecks veterans should be familiar with this speaker-centered presentation style.

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App design & the digital divide

In 2011, I gave an impromptu “lighting talk” at the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities (MITH) about the importance of considering the digital divide when designing and programming applications.

Through stimulus funds, the federal government is funding broadband expansion in rural communities. Millions of people in these communities are gaining Internet access at home for the first time. This is both an economic opportunity and a design challenge for programmers and developers.