DANVILLE — Dozens of children have been learning about physics and flight and using their problem-solving skills for the past two weeks during science camps at the Boys & Girls Club and the Danville Family YMCA.
Beth Chamberlain, a retired Danville High School chemistry and physics teacher, has been overseeing the camp for 15 years.
Chamberlain said she had so many third- through eighth-graders attending at the camp at the Boys and Girls Club this week that she had to divide the camp by age into three 90-minute sessions. Another session of the camp took place last week at the Danville Family YMCA.
“It keeps growing, so we had to add a third group,” she said.
A cadre of 11 teen and young adult helpers, including three camp co-directors — ranging in age from high school to college students — helps Chamberlain run the camps.
Still riding high on the enthusiasm from last weekend’s Balloons Over Vermilion, the camp theme on Monday was Balloon Day.
Danville balloon pilots, Dean Carlton and his son, Ryan, brought a hot-air balloon basket so every youngster had the chance to climb in the basket. The children were challenged to name items that fly or float before engineering a delivery system for hot dogs that hit a target using rubber bands, straws, cup lids, balloons, bags, string and paper clips.
On the second day of camp, the youngsters learned about air pressure while taking turns being shrink-wrapped. The children climbed into a large trash bag and had the air sucked out of the bag by a vacuum cleaner.
Chamberlain also amazed the children with another lesson in air pressure by karate chopping a wooden stick that was covered by newspaper. The newspaper prevented air from flowing underneath it, making it easier to break the stick in two.
Another experiment dealt with the rate at which an object falls.
“People think a bowling ball will fall faster than a pingpong ball,” Chamberlain said. “Actually, objects fall at the same rate.”
The campers learned that firsthand when they dropped a beach ball, softball and a pingpong ball.
While the youngsters were making “putty clouds” from corn starch, shaving cream and glue at Tuesday’s camp, they made another discovery.
“We found out that clear glue doesn’t behave like white glue, so we had to modify the recipe for putty clouds,” Chamberlain said. “We were corn starch from head to toe by the end of the day.”
Each of the three age groups at this week’s camp also had a hand in building a kite. The younger campers in third and fourth grades colored the kite templates, while the older campers constructed the kites and finished the project, Chamberlain said.
At Wednesday camp, youngsters made ice cream from milk, vanilla, sugar and dry ice, and then learned about planets and the solar system from Lt. Col. Art Urban, director of aerospace education with the Civil Air Patrol, while building a rubber band-propelled rocket made from foam rubber pipe insulation.
“I used duct tape, and I put a rubber band around a washer,” camper Aiden Galey explained. “I need the washer to keep the rubber band from coming out.”
“The next group will be making straw rockets,” Urban said, referring to the third- and fourth-graders who would make paper rockets that fit on the end of a drinking straw.
“The older kids will make a rocket from a kit,” he said. “They will learn the physics of how it works, and on Friday we’ll launch them.”
Chamberlain said the rockets the older campers build from a kit are powerful and will need to be launched outdoors.
“Last week, some of the rockets ended up on the roof at the Y, but they were able to get them down,” she said.
Representatives from Danville Metal Stamping will visit the camp today to talk about airplanes before the youngsters make paper airplanes and rubber band-powered helicopters.
The science camp is grant funded and sponsored by more than a dozen businesses and nonprofit organizations.