Science Fair Competition 2013

Long Green School House

People learn in different ways. Some benefit most from being told what to do. Others respond best to those who lead by example. Some people are visual learners, some need to work with their hands to really grasp concepts and apply them to larger lessons. Children are playful, active, easily distracted, brilliantly imaginative, and receptive to learning new things. They learn by seeing for their selves what cause and effect means, what consequences are, what miracles are. Proverbs 9:9 reads, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Doing is almost always more effective than simply hearing, and in children, this concept could not be more true.

Ava and Sarah

The Science Fair Competition of Maryland is a non-profit organization devoted to the mantra that “Inspiration causes motivation for education.” If kids are sitting in an atmosphere that does not promote exploration or mistake-making or light bulbs going off indicating epiphanies, education is stunted. On August 14-16, 2013 from 9am to 12pm, thirteen kids and young teens of varying ages and skill levels arrived at the Long Green School House on the Lenox Laser campus in Glen Arm to learn by doing. The campers’ first names are Brie, Jada, Sarah, Milada, Ava, Tommy, Owen, Caleb, Evan, Justin, London, Scarlett, Lilly, and Ellie. Each day began with the Pledge of Allegiance, an applicable and age-appropriate Bible verse, and a quick morning prayer. The campers, especially the kindergarten-bound ones, loved practicing the pledge loudly and proudly in a friendly environment, and one child a day had the honor of holding the American Flag. Rachel Hoffman, Camp Coordinator Extraordinaire, led the activities for each event, having chosen fun themes in place to focus energies each day.

A look inside The “Galeidoscope”
Tommy using a magnifying glass to melt marshmallows

Wednesday the 14th, the first day of camp, was “Outrageous Optics” day! The kids were able to enjoy a variety of crafts and learning experiences that all pertained to perception, light, and the eye. Out of “Outrageous Optics” many innovations were born. The main task of the day was to build a kaleidoscope using cardboard PVC pipes, rubber cement, construction paper, wax paper, regular kitchen plastic wrap, rubber bands, and various gems and miscellaneous “bling.” Thomas P. Hoffman discovered that if he put one large-cut play gem at the end of the tube instead of a sprinkling of little jewels between the layers of plastic, he could create the optical illusion that really resembled the experience of looking through a kaleidoscope. He then took this further by flipping the whole contraption upside down and looking at the gem from the outside and holding it to the light, instead of from the hole cut in the wax paper at the top. The effect was beautiful. He called this the “Galeidoscope.” Rachel put together a “History Minute” segment of the day where she would lead kids in small groups through a lesson on the day’s topic. The first day featured 3-D glasses to accompany the 3-D images on the wall as well as a brief definition and overview of what optics are and what their function is. The kids enjoyed playing a round of musical chairs using the kids’ Christian radio station that played music lightly through each event. Rachel showed the participants how to craft a reflection oven using a pizza box with plain aluminum foil on the top and black aluminum foil on the bottom to cook s’mores for a snack using just the sun to melt the chocolate and marshmallow. The highlight of the morning was when the kids used a magnifying glass to ignite sparklers. The kids loved seeing the spectacle, knowing that they were able to light them and set them off without a lighter or matches! They were in awe.

Justin and Evan test drive a “Whacky Wheels” invention


The official Science Camp 2013 Mobile!
Mr. Scott working on the Segway

The theme on Thursday, August 15th, was “Whacky Wheels.” When the kids arrived, they were able to decorate boxes with stickers and drawings so that the boxes could be used to hold all of their treasures and inventions from throughout the week. They were then given free reign to ride one of several play cars that are battery operated, taking turns, racing, and having fun. The group moved then from the school house to the Quonset hut on campus where Mr. d’Entremont and Doug Blake assisted the kids in many exciting projects, like attaching a cart and third wheel to a standard bicycle so that the rider could accommodate two more kids in the front, and a Segway of sorts made from a large trash bin, corrugated metal rods, a board, three wheels, and some handlebars. The inventions had something in common and that is the placement of the single wheel in the back, with the adjacent double wheels in the front, making these vehicles constructively unlike the tricycle- a true innovation. This building process took most of the camp time because the kids and staff were on a roll coming up with new ideas to improve mobility. Mr. d’Entremont mentioned that in the Segway process, it was IT employee, Ryan Pilius who really, “Set the wheels in motion.” He was responsible for brainstorming the logistical possibilities of balance and weight distribution while adjoining the rods and wheels to the barrel along with Mr. Scott, the father of a camper and avid enthusiast of hands-on learning. Ryan was involved in the camp all three days, getting to know the kids, and taking many photos and videos that will help the team remember the success of the event. One of the play cars from before, a bright yellow mustang to be exact, was covered in paper and decorated during this time as well so that every child had the opportunity to think outside of the box and get creative. The car turned out beautifully with balloons and tinsel streamers, glitter messages, bedazzled headlights, and a customized license plate.

Brie’s Ferris wheel from “Radical Robotics”
London and Lilly in construction mode

The last day was centered on “Radical Robotics.” Once more, Rachel taught the kids about the history and practice of robotics while showing fun posters of a vending machine and none other than Optimus Prime as relatable examples of science taking root in everyday life. The star of the day was the first assignment to build a robot/car/animal/machine using Joe’s peg blocks, Pegoes, Legos, tinker toys, ball and joints, wooden wheels, string, fins- anything in the school house from old-school rudimentary blocks to building toys that create highly efficient structures. The kids went nuts! Sarah had the idea to make things relating to the circus, so she and Lilly got to work on a flying trapeze and tightrope complete with death-defying drops and glittery string. Brie created a fully-functioning ferris wheel with Lego bucket seats, and a stand that really let the thing spin. There were awesome cars, and buses with many people on board, and bona fide robot action figures. It was nothing short of impressive that everyone worked together so well and kept at it until they had really become proud of their work. The kids were beaming with pride over what their imaginations had cooked up. We then shifted gears to another building exercise, only this time, the robots were edible! Pretzels, vanilla frosting, marshmallows, and graham crackers were used to make butterflies, snowmen, cars, and monsters, which lived only long enough to withstand the three-second countdown before everyone devoured the fruits of their labor. Joe then led another workshop experience up at the hut where demonstrations took place of how engineers use the same fundamentals learned all morning about the certainties of gravity, inertia, and strong foundational integrity to create things using steel and tools. The major players were Joe’s e-blox as they came together to form a stand that could hold a magnifying glass in place to catch the sunlight at the perfect angle and light the end of two cherry bomb fireworks- hands-free! This certainly tied up the week nicely bringing it back to optics. The three days culminated in a most-distinguished ceremony where the kids entered into Lenox Laser’s banquet hall where the whole company surprised them with a fancy introduction and cheers. The smiles and wide eyes on those faces were so genuine and that image of them reacting to the pomp and circumstance is so valuable. Rachel created a slideshow of all of the pictures taken throughout the camp that played in the background while the whole company and the kids ate a complimentary lunch and opened their self-decorated boxes now filled with little goodies like jump ropes, creepy crawly rubber bugs, toy cars, and of course the kaleidoscopes they had made on the first day plus framed pictures of them in action playing with their new friends and learning through experience.

Brie, Ellie, and Ava
Joe, Shelby, Rachel, and Owen as he receives his award
Mr. Scott and Evan
The hands-free fireworks launcher made from e-blox

This camp contextualized science, technology, and inventions, and put into practice what kids learn in their classes during the school year in a safe, fun environment. Brie, a 14-year-old participant was eager to know that we will be hosting this camp again next summer because she had such a good time and loved using her creativity and serving heart to help others and show the endless possibilities of innovation by setting a good example. Evan, Mr. Scott’s son loved meeting the other boys and causing a harmless ruckus by learning about cars and setting things on fire and doing what young boys do best. Milada loved gluing jewels and adding the letter ”M” and the number “5” to everything she touched so that people would know an intelligent 5-year-old with an “M” name was there and she was proud to be a part of it. Brothers Tommy and Owen learned a lot about the laws and principles of optics, having both tried the new “Galeidoscope” technique to see things a bit differently. Justin loved robotics day and loved creating cool menacing transformers that could implement the lessons he had learned. Jada, another young teenager who was friends with Brie, came out of her shell more each day until she was in her element behind the camera helping us take pictures and playing tag with the younger boys and girls. Her smile let on that she was so happy to be here. Sisters London, Scarlett, and Lilly were fortunate to have their mom Rachel Krafft stay for the days with them so they got a great mother-daughter understanding of how to show off what they had made right away to the person who meant most to them and be excited to know that they had done it all on their own. Caleb, the younger brother of Tommy and Owen, proved to be helpful and friendly to the other kids while still being the rambunctious little kid we all love. Ava was a shining light all three days with her adventurous spirit and willingness to try every new thing and even roughhouse with the boys! She is a firecracker with a longing to hold onto everyone around her and build lasting moments with kids her age as she deals with her diagnosis of leukemia. Ava’s buddy who she was inseparable with in just three days was Sarah. Sarah is one of the sweetest girls I have ever met. She loved to be fair, take turns, and teach kids how to be patient and how to have a ton of fun while making goofy faces and not taking anything too seriously. She was so excited to exchange phone numbers with Ava’s mom so that they could stay in touch. Ellie was a young teenager who arrived the last day, but she jumped right in and participated beautifully with an amazing peg structure during building time and a free-spirited heart to help where she was needed and make the most out of the time she could spend meeting everybody.

Lighting Sparklers


Rachel Krafft and Rachel Hoffman
Milada and her mother
Caleb working

The success of this Science Fair Competition of Maryland camp would not have been possible without the help of many people. First and foremost, Rachel Hoffman spearheaded the entire project working long hours to make sure that everything was perfect when the kids arrived every morning at nine. She put together the history boards each day to give everyone an idea of why fun games and crafts mattered in real life, and really got the interest building for parents to want to bring their kids here. It was a real labor of love for her, and it was obvious that she wouldn’t trade the relationships she built for anything. Ryan Pilius manned cameras most of the time but also got his hands dirty constructing things and giving piggy-back rides. Mr. Scott proved to be a great asset for managing the kids and getting them motivated and hyped up while being extremely interested and enthusiastic himself to get in there and figure things out. Rachel Krafft helped to keep the kids clean and fed when hand-sanitizing and snack time came around and was always open to give helpful feedback on how the days were going and keep everybody focused on the projects at hand. Shelby Smith worked with Rachel in brainstorming sessions to plan the next day’s schedule and did some general lookout for the kids while engaging them and working with them to come up with ideas and complete crafts. Joe d’Entremont was a force that the kids listened to and also joked around with, running neat proposals past each other on how to achieve the next best thing. Doug Blake was around to help at a moment’s notice, drilling holes, lighting things on fire, the perfect right-hand man. Tom Walton gave freely of his time and energy to fix things that were broken, run things between the office and the school and help set up the hall for the closing program on Friday. Tom Hoffman grilled for the company luncheon and helped create the reflection oven for the first day of camp. John Whelan provided a meal for everyone making sure that kid-friendly macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets could be served as well as other options so that everyone could enjoy a nice time. He also got the hall ready for all of the guests to file in and feel important and welcomed.

Tom Hoffman conducting a tour of the lab for the kids

The 2013 summer camp was a hit! There is no doubt that this will continue in the coming years. The potential for an after-school program even exists, so that the ball can start rolling on these great opportunities for kids to learn in a new way sooner rather than later, and year round! This place is unlike any other. The Christian standard of equality, education and love is apparent at every facet of the company and non-profit organization. Science Fair Competition of Maryland is the place to be.

See, Hear, Do, Learn, Teach.


Campers, parents, and coordinators after the closing ceremony on the 16th