By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Summer students learn science

Starla Pointer / News-Register##Students in the STEM camp celebrate as warm air causes their balloon to rise into the air in the Evergreen Space Museum.
Starla Pointer / News-Register##Students in the STEM camp celebrate as warm air causes their balloon to rise into the air in the Evergreen Space Museum.
Starla Pointer / News-Register##Daniela Anaya, second from left, holds the balloon s neck against a hot air popper and Hannia Pacheco, Diana Alba and Angela Landeros steady the envelope as it fills with air, causing lift.
Starla Pointer / News-Register##Daniela Anaya, second from left, holds the balloon's neck against a hot air popper and Hannia Pacheco, Diana Alba and Angela Landeros steady the envelope as it fills with air, causing lift.
Starla Pointer / News-Register##Teacher David Larson shows Aaron Melcher and other students how to use a GPS tracking device before they set off to find clues left by the Cheeto bandit.
Starla Pointer / News-Register##Teacher David Larson shows Aaron Melcher and other students how to use a GPS tracking device before they set off to find clues left by the Cheeto bandit.

As the balloon filled with warm air, it expanded. Its colorful sides became rounded. It began to strain against the students’ fingers.

Released, the balloon shot up, five feet, 10 feet. That elicited a round of cheers.

“Hot air is less dense than cool air,” Daniela Anaya said. In other words, she explained, the balloon was warmer than the surrounding air, so it rose.

Daniela and the other middle school students were spending the week at Science, Math, Engineering and Technology camp offered by the McMinnville School District. The STEM camp met in McMinnville High School’s Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy classrooms, located inside the space museum and in other parts of the museum campus.

This was the second of two STEM camps this summer. The first week’s camp was specifically for girls, to encourage them to enroll in science and math courses. The second week’s camp was for students in the migrant program, many of whom are still perfecting their English.

Hannia Mata said she signed up for the second week because she wanted to learn.

“I liked science a little” before the camp, she said. On the final day, she said, “I like it more.”

Angela Landeros was attracted by the promise of learning more math.

“A lot of this is math,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Zamira Sanchez said she loves both math and science. “I thought this sounded like fun, and it is,” she said, adding that she’s really liked learning about navigation and engineering.

Each camp ended with an afternoon at the Wings & Waves Waterpark.

Before they splashed into the water, though, the students spent 3 1/2 days touring the museums; learning about space, rocketry, programming and geometry; talking about DNA and trying their hands at forensic investigation.

In the latter class, students investigated the case of the missing Cheetos. 

Three clear fingerprints — all belonging to STEM Camp instructors — had been found at the scene from which the Cheetos had been stolen. Students discussed the patterns of lines on those latent prints. Each person has a unique fingerprint, teacher Dave Larson said.

Julio Partida held his thumb up and squinted at it. “I think I might have a whorl,” he mused.

As interested as he was in fingerprints and forensics, Julio said it wasn’t his favorite part of science. “I like chemistry!” he said, especially when he can cause a chemical reaction.

After looking at fingerprints, Julio and his classmates went outside to use Global Positioning System tracking devices. GPS would help them find clues that could lead to the Cheetos solution, Larson said.

The teacher showed them how to use the devices. And he revealed that a clue was located at 45 degrees latitude 12.216 and 123 degrees longitude 08.471.

Off students ran, certain they could solve the crime.

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