St. Joseph’s Academy and Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge joined forces over the Christmas holiday to offer a special camp for children who are undergoing or just completed treatment for cancer.
Eight campers between the ages of 12 and 14 spent January 3 and 4 in the Andrea Clesi McMakin ’74 STEM Lab, working with SJA technology team members and students to design and create clocks; learn about 3D printing, digital drafting, laser cutting and assembly; and play with the STEM Lab’s new dye sublimation printer. Each camper contributed to the design and printing of a T-shirt.
Claire Luikart, SJA class of 2006, is the director of the Andrea Clesi McMakin ’74 STEM Lab. She said the camp was a wonderful opportunity for youngsters in difficult situations to work with fun technology tools. “Since much of what we worked on was computer based, part of what we aimed to achieve was helping individuals who are often confined to hospital rooms find an additional outlet for their creativity and energy,” Luikart said.
Whitney Craig, director of Cancer Services, said the STEM Camp opened up a world of possibilities for the young participants. “In many ways, cancer takes things away,” Craig, a 2005 SJA graduate, said. “At camp, we had a unique opportunity to help young people impacted by cancer focus on something besides their illness and add to the innovative side of life. This camp provided an opportunity to explore and create in ways never imagined. The campers learned the software incredibly fast, which allowed the staff to empower them to create more and more. It provided a unique chance to imagine something, build it online and print it the same day.
“We are so appreciative of St. Joseph’s Academy’s willingness to partner with us on this camp,” Craig added. “It would not have been possible without their expertise, knowledge and technology.”
SJA senior Hannah Grace Vautrot was among the students who volunteered to help with the camp. Her reason for spending two days of her Christmas holiday at school was personal. “Several of my family members have been affected by cancer, so when Ms. Claire asked me to help her with a camp for Cancer Services, I said yes right away,” she said. “Cancer takes so much from people and their families, and I loved using my talents in the STEM Lab to give back to them. The kids were so eager to learn and tore through everything we taught them. One of my favorite parts of the camp was their reactions when we started cutting their projects and finally pulled them out of the laser cutter. I loved the looks on their faces when they were actually holding something that had only been their design on a computer screen just minutes before. I often forget how amazing the STEM Lab is, but fresh sets of eyes reminded me how lucky I am to go to SJA.”
Freshman Lucy Richardson also enjoyed working with the campers. “What I thought made the camp so special was getting to work with the kids and getting to know them,” she said. “It was so cool to see how interested they were in laser cutting, 3D printing and STEM in general. My favorite part was helping them design their clock and helping them figure out what they liked and how they could include that in their design.”
Luikart said she hopes to collaborate with Cancer Services to host additional camps in the future. “I can’t wait to see what the next group cooks up,” she said.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Erin Albarado