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CCM Summer Academy Students Exercise Their Imagination

This Year’s Programs Involves Students in Theme Park Creation - Posted 7/15/13
A group of about 20 students from Dover High School found a way to keep their minds sharp while having some fun this summer as participants in this year’s Summer Academy at County College of Morris.

Now in its 21st year, the Summer Academy provides Dover High School students with a one-week opportunity to sharpen their science, math and technology skills, express their creativity and start planning for college. The program is so popular that this year’s program, which ran from July 8 through July 12, included several repeat participants.

"I'm a veteran now," said Nick Warholak, 17, who was taking part in the program for a third summer in a row. Warholak wants to attend MIT, study engineering and become an inventor. Included among his summer reading is Patent Pending in 24 Hours. As a participant in the Summer Academy, Warholak said, he is able to maintain his focus on education while he’s not in school.

Each year’s program focuses on a different aspect of math, science and technology. This year’s program “Emagination” placed the participants into small groups and challenged them to create an amusement park in Minecraft, a video game where players build things in 3D. Some of the results included a volcano roller coaster, a “Jungle Vines” ride filled with numerous climbs and dips and lots of green vegetation, and even some bathrooms.

Santiago Almeida, 14, a first-time participant, was particularly proud of the nicely tiled bathroom he had put together. “I can see now I have a creative side which I had hardly noticed before,” he said.

In addition to honing their math, science and technology skills, the students learned about the college application process, financial aid and the importance of budgeting and saving.

"We try to show the students that college is a real possibility and that they can succeed,"said CCM Professor Alexis Thurman, the program's director.

For Grace Albee, 14, the program further fueled her interest in starting an International Genetically Engineered Machine (IGEM) Foundation club at her high school this coming fall so she and her fellow students can compete in next year’s IGEM competition. The competition requires students to take a kit of biological parts and to build a biological system and operate it in livings cells.

Her goal is to develop a career in bioengineering. The Summer Academy, she said, is a good avenue for students to explore the worlds of math, science and technology or build upon an existing interest in those fields. Noting that many young women still shy away from math, science and technology, she added, "It's a shame. They are missing out on a lot of fun."

Photo (l-r) Nick Warholak, Grace Albee and Santiago Almeida, participants in this year’s Summer Academy at County College of Morris, work on building an amusement park in Minecraft.

Credit: Dana Ahern