By Kelly Alvarado and Jhonatan Bonilla
A group of eight children attended the first STEAM camp event, a program run by the Tesla Science Center, that teaches students, seven to 12, about inventor Nikola Tesla last Saturday at The Spur, a space dedicated to start-ups and education at the in Southampton.
The program included battery circuits, spinning coil wires, and demonstrations to show a Tesla coil at work. Volunteer Jeffrey Velez offered a lesson about the history of Nikola Tesla, and helped the children in the audience become little innovators themselves.
“This helps spark the imagination. You see it in their eyes, they get excited,” he said. Velez never attended demonstrations like this one as a kid, and loves thrilling the children with science as if it were magic.
Along with Velez, Douglas Borge, the chief operating officer at the Tesla Center, led the children in creating their own battery circuits.
“Our goal here today is to expand our entire educational program,” Borge said.
Through weekend programs, the Tesla Science Center plans to expand its education department by working with organizations like The Spur and iKids to teach students who Tesla was.
The Tesla Science Center’s education program is currently in its infancy. Stephen Phillips, a STEAM education consultant, says this STEAM camp is just a “pilot” for the education sector of the Tesla Science Center. According to Phillips and Borge, the organization plans to have more STEAM camp events, grow their education faculty and possibly even go international with this department, by creating an online forum.
“We’re trying to limit the educational walls that are out there by utilizing virtual and physical platforms,” Borge said.
The Tesla Science Center opened this program with support from the community. Ashley John Heather, the founder of the “The Spur,” loved the idea of the program.
“Parents can come drop the kids off and you see the excitement,” he said. “You’re in the kid’s place, helping them enjoy learning about new things,” Heather said.
The program’s creation allows children to branch out into scientific experiments that they may not experience in school.
“My son Ben isn’t an athlete so we’re always looking for things that will challenge him in engineering or building since he just doesn’t enjoy sports,” Fischette said. She also believes there’s a lack of programs for children who like things other than sports and the STEAM program can benefit children who appreciate, problem-solving and experimenting.
The STEAM Camp at the Tesla Science Center is a mere glimpse of the larger aspirations of its organization. According to the Tesla Science Center’s 2019 annual report, it is hoping to open an educational center where it plans to provide further STEAM Education. Additionally, they aim to continue the restoration of the Tesla laboratory, and transforming it into a museum, creating an innovation and entrepreneur center. In order to complete the proposed projects, the center for another $5 million dollars. It has already received $7.5 million in donations and grants, which they plan to begin construction of their visitor center in Spring 2020.
The center will continue hosting the camps at The Spur every Saturday until April 11th.
At the end of the event, children were given laminated Tesla currency from Yugoslavia. The $1,000 dollar bill depicts the Tesla coil similar to the micro exhibits the children experienced earlier that day, commemorating their time spent at the STEAM Camp.