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Can online summer camps work? Evidence from adapting a high school hands-on water quality module for online delivery

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2021 Illinois-Indiana Regional Conference



Publication Date

April 16, 2021

Start Date

April 16, 2021

End Date

April 17, 2021

Conference Session

Outreach and K-12

Tagged Topic

Outreach and K-12

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Mary Elizabeth Foltz University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Mary E. Foltz is a PhD candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on denitrification in agricultural systems and ways to decrease nitrous oxide emissions from denitrification. She has developed and taught five high school science courses and been involved in engineering outreach programs through the university and community. After graduating, she aims to become an assistant professor in an environmental engineering and science program.

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Sotiria Koloutsou-Vakakis University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sotiria Koloutsou-Vakakis holds a Diploma degree in Civil-Surveying Engineering (National Technical University of Athens, Greece), a M.A. in Geography (University of California, Los Angeles), and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Air Quality, Science and Environmental Policy, and Engineering Risk and Uncertainty. Her recent research is about gaseous emissions of reactive nitrogen from fertilized fields into the atmosphere and impacts on air quality and climate change.

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There is evidence that participation in summer engineering camps facilitates students’ understanding of the work engineers do, which can influence their decisions toward selecting engineering majors in college and engineering career paths [1]. The Environmental Engineering and Sustainability summer camp for high school students has been offered at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2012, under the summer camp outreach umbrella of the Grainger College of Engineering [2]. The week-long camp includes hands-on activities aimed to introduce students to engineering design, scientific inquiry, sustainability, and how engineers contribute to protecting human health and the environment. In summer 2020, due to the pandemic, the camp was reformatted from in-person to virtual. The virtual platform enabled the camp to reach more students, especially those with limited resources to attend an in-person camp. Therefore, we believe it is worth reflecting on the benefits and challenges of this reformatted summer camp and suggest ways online student experience can be improved in the future.

In this paper, we specifically focus on the water quality module, which was reformatted for online delivery. The module originally used multiple techniques (i.e., probes and test strips) to test the quality of various water sources, including a creek running through campus. The virtual module also tested water quality, but each student chose a water source near them and results were compiled and compared for different samples across the country. While both versions (in-person and virtual) included an interactive lesson on water quality and treatment, the virtual lesson was delivered to ten times as many students using video conferencing. The additional students and format had a unique set of challenges, but also enabled more student diversity and opportunities for discussion of water quality on a broader scale. This paper presents our observations of student engagement, student assessment, and formal feedback to evaluate the success of the virtual module and identify ways to improve this approach in future iterations.

Foltz, M. E., & Koloutsou-Vakakis, S. (2021, April), Can online summer camps work? Evidence from adapting a high school hands-on water quality module for online delivery Paper presented at 2021 Illinois-Indiana Regional Conference, Virtual. 10.18260/1-2--38259

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