GEERing Up! for STEM: Guest Post

19 years ago, GEERing Up! set out to deliver fun hands-on activities to encourage youth across

BC to consider careers in Science Engineering and Technology. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of our supporters we have since impacted over 80,000 youth.

GEERing Up! UBC Engineering & Science for Kids is a non-profit organization with the mandate of promoting science, engineering and technology to youth across British Columbia. Affiliated with the University of British Columbia, GEERing Up! is designed, organized and operated by UBC students. We endeavour to show program participants how fun, exciting and useful engineering and science can be.

GEERing Up! runs the following programs:

● Workshops for elementary and high school students

● Camps for kids in Grade 1 to Grade 10

● High school leadership programs for students entering Grades 11/12 or first year of university

● Outreach camps in Prince George, Kelowna and Tsleil-Waututh Nation in addition to Vancouver

GEERing Up! employs current university students. In 2014, GEERing Up! has twenty-three university student staff members. Most staff members are students in a STEM program.

Tell us a little about how and why GEERing Up! got started?

In early 1995, Dr. Ian Gartshore, then Associate Dean of Students in the Faculty of Applied Science at UBC, brought YES Camps to the attention of Christine Yeung, a UBC Mechanical Engineering student. An interest in having a YES camp at UBC was sparked, and Christine and several other students incorporated the planning of camp project ideas into a design project for one of their courses.

During the summer of 1995, a volunteer committee was formed with the intention of designing and implementing a YES camp called GEERing Up! UBC Engineering for Kids for the summer of 1996. Their goal was to show youth in the community that engineering was not just building bridges and driving trains, but incorporated fun science concepts in order to design and construct structures, chemicals, vehicles, and computers. YES became YES-VACC, which then became Actua, a national network of science, engineering and technology camps. From our beginnings in 1995, GEERing Up! has evolved from an idea to its current form, with in-school workshops in May and June, and Summer Camps in July and August.

What does a typical day at GEERing Up! look like for participants?

GEERing Up! offers camps at various communities in British Columbia. Most of our programs take place at the beautiful Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia.

A typical day at GEERing Up! is fun-loaded with science and engineering. All of our camps take place in the Engineering area of campus. One of the great advantages of hosting a camp at a world-renowned research facility is that we get access to some very cool buildings as well as the mentorship of very accomplished people. Different age groups partake in different activities throughout the day.

Here is what a typical day in Explorers, our grade 4/5 group may look like:

9:00 AM: Campers work with Instructors and Junior Instructors to extract DNA from strawberries and kiwis.

10:15 AM: Everyone goes to the field outside for snack time.

10:45 AM: Campers work on Scratch to create stories, games and animations using programming.

12:00 AM: Lunch! Campers either bring lunch from home, or pre-order lunch from us.

Lunch takes place on a large field.

1:00 PM: Campers visit the Beatty Biodiversity Museum on campus where they get to see fossils and other cool animal artifacts.

3:00 PM: Campers go home! Each day, we try to have something that campers can take home with them.

What kind of skills (STEM-related or other) do you aim to teach with your programs?

GEERing Up! UBC Engineering & Science for Kids is a non-profit organization with the mandate of promoting science, engineering and technology to youth across British Columbia. We want to instill in youth an interest in the opportunities that science, engineering and technology can provide. We encourage collaboration, teamwork and creativity in all of our programs. We provide opportunities for youth to think outside of the box, engage with their local and global communities and have fun with their education!

How do you get parents, educators and the general community involved in learning?

In May and June, GEERing Up! instructors teach workshops in elementary and high schools in British Columbia. Through these workshops, GEERing Up! reaches thousands of kids and also their teachers. We love to work with teachers in schools because they teach us so much about education.

GEERing Up! is eager to participate in community initiatives and programs. We attend community events such as the Annual APEG-BC E-Fest and Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair. We come prepared with our GEERing Up! swag, some cool science, and information about our programs. We are often asked to run activities for kids by partners in our community, which we are always excited to do because it allows us to reach kids that we otherwise wouldn’t. This year, GEERing Up! is proud to announce a collaboration with UBC Campus partners in engaging with the Maker Community through the university’s first ever Maker Camp.

Parents are welcome to our open house on Friday afternoons. Additionally, throughout the week, parents receive email updates to keep them in the loop about what their children are up to at camp.

Parents, educators and the community are encouraged to follow us on social media (Facebook and Twitter).

What's next for Geering Up? What's on your wishlist?

Currently, we only run programs in the summer, aside from some outreach events in the year.

GEERing Up! is looking to expand programs into the school year. We are very excited about the prospect of starting a Girls Club and a Robot/Technology Club for the school year. We would invite kids to UBC after school or on the weekend to participate in some fun STEM!

Jakob Manning and Tanjot Singh are the Co-Directors of GEERing Up!