For six weeks in summer 2011, more than 200 kids and more than a dozen facilitators, many of them area teachers and UW-Madison engineering students, hiked, bussed to, and generally scoured the UW-Madison campus, local attractions and area companies.
These educational excursions were all part of the 14th annual Camp Badger, a one-week residential program for Wisconsin and Minnesota teenagers entering eighth grade. As campers, they explore the many aspects of an engineering education and the profession, all while living in a student dorm and experiencing life on a college campus. “We involve middle and high school teachers to run the camps,” says Engineering Professional Development Professor Phil O’Leary. “One of our informal objectives is to have teachers experience camp, too. It opens their eyes to engineering and helps them in the classroom. We have teachers involved from Madison, Verona, Stoughton and Racine.”
This year, for the first time, Camp Badger held a session in River Falls, Wisconsin, thanks in part to a generous donation from 3M Corporation. The program continues to grow in number of students, activities, locations and important demographics. “The percentage of girls involved in camp went up this year, as did the number of students on need-based scholarships,” says O’Leary. “A primary goal of Camp Badger is to offer an experience to kids who would not otherwise have the opportunity.”
Scholarships offset part or all of the cost of camp, based on a recommendation from teachers. Funding for camp comes from alumni, corporations and a small portion of fees paid to Engineering Professional Development short courses.
Many Camp Badger alumni have gone on to pursue undergraduate engineering degrees, often at University of Wisconsin schools, reflecting the impact of their experience. “It’s part of our social responsibility, both to our profession and to the state of Wisconsin,” says O’Leary.