HARKERS ISLAND — From computer programming to using rope to solve algebra problems, a group of students are getting unique lessons in math, science and computer technology this week during a camp at The Bridge Downeast youth center.
This is the second summer the Shodor Education Foundation of Durham, a nonprofit computational math and science institute, has presented camps to rising fifth- through ninth-grade students at the center. Shodor also presented a forensic science and engineering camp in June.
Dr. Bob Panoff, founder and executive director of the foundation, said he started the organization 19 years ago after he was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer while working as a computer physicist for a university.
“They gave me six months to live and I wanted to teach kids about science, math and computer science. So I started a nonprofit foundation to do that. Obviously, the cancer didn’t kill me so I’ve dedicated my life to educating kids,” he said.
Dr. Panoff said the organization has three basic missions: to develop students who want to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); develop better STEM computer materials that can be used to teach students; and develop better teachers equipped to teach STEM subjects.
Thanks to a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a nonprofit group dedicated to the advancement of medical science, Shodor last year purchased 10 computers and equipment to donate to The Bridge Downeast to assist with education outreach activities.
Dr. Panoff also offered to teach math, science, engineering and computer camps each summer at the center. In addition, he holds training sessions for high school and college students who volunteer to help with the camps.
The camp offered Monday through Thursday focuses on computer programming and using models to solve problems. It also blends language arts lessons.
“Models can be used to solve a variety of things,” Dr. Panoff said. “For example, a globe is a model to find locations. Or you can build computer models.”
He used a rope as a creative model to solve an algebra equation, with the assistance of Daylen Piner, 10, a rising fifth-grader at Atlantic School, who demonstrated the knots used to solve the equation.
Daylen said he took the camp “because I enjoy playing with computers.”
Aubrey Guthrie, 12, a rising seventh-grader at Smyrna School, said, “We enjoy science here and we get to do a lot of fun stuff.”
Richard Gillikin, board member for The Bridge Downeast, said the board is grateful to Dr. Panoff for supporting the center and Down East students.
“We’re trying to make it accessible for our kids Down East to have the same opportunities and experiences kids have in big cities. We want our kids to be able to compete in the job market. With the economy the way it is and down here with commercial fishing dying out, we need things like this more than ever for our kids,” he said.
Mr. Gillikin said The Bridge Downeast started with its primary mission being to provide a safe place for young people to come on the weekends to have fun. But they have as a secondary mission providing education activities. He said they’re hoping to offer after school activities during the school year as funds become available.
For more information about The Bridge Downeast, go to: thebridgedowneast.org.
For more information about Shodor Education Foundation, go to Shodor.org.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.