Americorps Explore STEM Camp

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The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) recently hosted a one-week Explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Camp for Halifax County students. SVHEC Americorps Member Vashunda Richardson developed the camp to increase awareness and interest in STEM through engaging, hands-on activities. During the week students used the SVHEC’s welding simulator to virtually weld, built solar ovens to make s’mores, and used simple household products to make slime.

“A key feature of the Explore STEM Camp was using hands-on projects to make science, technology, math and engineering come alive for students. We were able to show them the concepts they hear and read about have very practical uses, and can be a lot of fun,” said Hope Harris-Gayles, SVHEC Associate Director of Communications & Outreach, and site coordinator for Americorps at the SVHEC.   

One of Explore STEM camp highlights was an introduction to coding and robotics taught by Dr. Paula Leach, Director of Longwood University’s Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices. Using littleBits Robotics, Dr. Leach introduced students to the concept of coding and gave them hands-on experiences with the littleBits so they could build and code interactive games like the Hot Potato of Doom. "One of the great things about using a tool such as littleBits is that students get to actually design, build, and code their own project and quickly see the results of their efforts," Dr. Leach said.


The camp ended with a visit from South Boston Police officers Lieutenant Barker and Detective Carswell. The officers spoke to the Explore STEM students about crime scene investigation, and gave them an opportunity to take shoe prints and brush for fingerprints.

“We’ve really enjoyed the camp, said Leslie Bohanon whose daughter Nora participated in the camp. “Everyday my daughter tells me about the different things she’s made and the activities they’ve done. She really liked the solar oven and wants to use it at home.”

Lori Ashwell, whose child Logan participated in the camp, also had high praise for the camp stating, “She’s had the best time. It’s exceeded all of our expectations.”

This fall, SVHEC Americorps Members will be partnering with the South Boston Public library to offer an after-school Legos Club. For more information please visit

AmeriCorps members at the SVHEC is made possible through an SVHEC partnership with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in the Dan River Year AmeriCorps Program. Dan River Year AmeriCorps strives to strengthen STEM outcomes in the Southern Virginia region by providing high quality STEM educational programs, tutoring and mentoring students, and offering workforce development training to job seekers and incumbent workers. For more information visit