• Kayia Gaulden

Inspired by Science

By Sharon McIntire


There’s been an explosion at Carlsbad’s Inspired By Science summer camp.

One of Carlsbad’s most popular summer activities offers a week-long program of hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities to 100 elementary children. This year that number exploded to 240.


Since 2013, Carlsbad’s curious young scientists have flocked to NMSU-C to create and explore chemical reactions, gravity, potential and kinetic energy and other STEM activities. But this year, the Coronavirus forced the college to close its doors to the public, and camp director Deena Antiporda reluctantly announced that the 2020 Inspired By Science camp would have to be cancelled.


But this time the tragedy of the virus became a blessing. Hearing the bad news, two of the camp’s most ardent sponsors, Devon Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership, approached Antiporda with the suggestion that she hold the camp online and sweetened the deal with the offer to pay for supplies. The result was a free camp for more than twice the number of campers and with that, Inspired By Science’s first virtual camp was born in the Antiporda’s kitchen.


The result? “It was great! It was awesome! It was so much more successful than I expected it to be!” Antiporda gushed. “We were able to reach more people – more than twice as many,” she said, “and we saw whole families participating - a lot of little kids, older brothers and sisters and parents... It was absolutely wonderful!”


It was a fitting birth. Inspired By Science evolved from the Antiporda’s kitchen when Deena and her young son, Logan, investigated science projects there. "We were always tinkering around in the kitchen,“ she said. It was a natural transition to go from the kitchen to school with her children, and from school to the college to offer STEM fun to the community. This year the cycle was completed as it returned to her kitchen as a virtual camp starring Deena and her three sons, Logan, Riley and Evan. For four days the family coached 240 eager students with daily activities and encouraged them to keep in touch by submitting photos and comments to their website, www.inspiredbyscience.org. On the fifth and final day they travelled around town delivering grand prizes to 10 excited campers who had entered the drawing during the week through the website.


“For me, that was probably the best apart of the week,” she stated. “It was so much fun to meet the kids who had participated and to hear their comments. I also really enjoyed all the photos and comments that we got on the website. It was wonderful to see them having so much fun together. The response was just awesome: we got over a thousand responses to our website during the week!”


That did a lot to alleviate her biggest reservation about the virtual camp. “I really hated not being there with the campers,” she said. “I love watching them as they work together and come up with ways to solve problems.”


But there were some unexpected surprises to offset not being together. In addition to being able to reach many more children, this made the experience more available to parents and to the campers’ siblings – older and younger – all of whom dug in and enjoyed the event as well. “On Facebook I saw a lot of interaction. There were a lot of little kids, and a lot of parents all participating in the projects together.”


She admitted, too, that taking away the group format helped keep these budding scientists “more focused, more concentrated” on the concepts they were tackling. And, even though she strongly supports group collaboration, she has decided the campers need more individual group activities to give each child the opportunity to “own their ideas” and feel pride in the remarkable things they can achieve.


So what does next year look like? “We’re keeping our options open,” she states. But you can see the wheels turning. “I definitely want to continue the in-person camp. But being online you can reach so many more kids and have a bigger impact....


“We’ll see. We’ll see.”


Note: If you’d like to see what happened during the 2020 Inspired By Science camp, videos of each day’s activities are still up on their website: www.inspiredbyscience.org.


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