Two-dozen elementary and middle school students this past week participated in a summer STEM camp in Brownsville offered by the UTRGV Center for Excellence in STEM Education.

The camp offered fun learning activities for the students and allowed education students nearing graduation at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to try out their teaching skills. Elementary students attended in the morning and middle school students in the afternoon. The university students were completing requirements for U-Teach internships.

“This helps me get experience in my future career, which is teaching,” said Jennifer Guajardo, a math major at the UTRGV Edinburg campus, as she got ready to present a science activity that students would be able to perform at home. It utilized shredded purple cabbage to illustrate the Ph level of several liquids. The only other thing needed for the activity was water, which would turn color based on the acidity of the liquid poured into a dish containing the cabbage. Guajardo predicted Coca Cola would score high on the acidity scale.

Ximena Rodriguez a rising eighth-grader at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in McAllen, characterized the camp as a chance “to do some brain work before school starts, to get my brain running.”

Her grandparents, Juan Vicente and Angelica Peña, live in Brownsville. She was staying with them while her mother worked and her father, a geologist, was out of town.

She said topics at the camp included recycling, biology, physical science and engineering. The idea was to “be creative with what your materials are,” she said.

As Guajardo shredded cabbage upstairs, camp participants went outside to fly rockets in an activity taught by Yahaira Valadez, also a UTRGV-Edinburg math major and prospective teacher.

The rockets were launched slingshot style in a contest to see which one would go the farthest.

Sam Salinas, an incoming sixth-grader at Stillman Middle School, said there had been a lot of science and a lot of technology at the camp. By the time his rocket flew the students had come to the realization that a trajectory elevated slightly above parallel to the ground would produce the longest flight.