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Summer campers explore engineering, design, and construction

  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eileen Keithly/South Strand News Seven-year-old Tristen Blathers adds the finishing touches to her team’s gum drop bridge.

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The Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department is taking basic summer camp activities like four square and basketball and kicking them up a notch.

Summer campers, turned engineers for a day, explored basic physics and engineering concepts during a gumdrop bridge-building experiment at the Beck Recreation Center in Georgetown on July 21.

“If you ask me, I think our bridge collapsed because of a design defect,” nine-year-old Ermani Holmes pointed out to her co-workers.

Emory Burroughs and his brother, Ethan, chief design engineers for the day, begged to differ.

“It was not a design defect, it was a construction problem,” Emory Burroughs said. Both Burroughs brothers agreed that their construction group, made up of six elementary school age summer campers put “way too many gumdrops” on the toothpick supports.

Kristian McClain, another member of the construction group, offered some middle ground: “It was a little bit of both, but I think we needed more toothpicks; the walkway was just way too heavy.”

Oliver Bomar, a teammate of McClain, agreed, and began to orchestrate the immediate destruction and rebuilding of bridge No. 1.

“Look, all we need to do is spread out the supports, add more beams (toothpicks) and put less weight (gumdrops) on the walkway.”

With all hands on deck, the group worked as a team and accomplished its goal, ending with a nice gumdrop bridge that could support the weight of the “make believe gum drop people” who crossed the walkway.

Another group of engineering campers, several years younger, were far less worried about strength and support.

“I think we need more red gumdrops,” envisioned seven-year-old Rose Beauchemin. “I want our bridge to be very pretty.”

The younger engineers were more concerned with the overall aesthetics of their bridge than they were about the anticipated vehicle and foot traffic across it.

The two groups of “make-believe engineers,” as they liked to call themselves, were equipped with toothpicks, sugary gumdrops and small paper cups.

During the building process, they were encouraged by camp staff to test the strength, stability, and durability of the structures they were working on.

“We wanted it to be fun, but challenging for them,” summer camp administrator Breann Ethridge explained.

Camper Ellis Gage Coleman remarked, “They told us we should build something that could withstand people and cars.”

Judging by the sugar crumbs on his chin, he completed several gumdrop strength and stability tests during construction.

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