The University of Indianapolis is buzzing with activity as summer camps, classes and conferences are in full swing this June. It’s part of the University’s broader goal to engage with the local community year-round by offering valuable campus resources for families, businesses and professional organizations.
Between June and August, the University will host dozens of events on campus. Conferences include Teach for America’s annual academy, Indiana Choral Directors Association Summer Conference, 4-H Leadership, National Association of Black Accountants Accounting Career Awareness Program (NABA ACAP), Melody Makers of Indiana and Nitro Circus. Summer camps focus on a variety of sports, including football, swimming, basketball and volleyball and subjects like math, writing workshops, robotics, art and multimedia game development. UIndy summer camps offer opportunities for second graders to grandparents.
The wide variety is by design, said Rachelle Merkel-Diaz, the University’s director of summer programs. She noted that the University has doubled the number of summer events on campus over the past year, designed to make the campus a dynamic destination point year-round for Indianapolis residents.
“I think it is a wonderful introduction of the university to folks who aren’t necessarily in the college search process,” Merkel-Diaz added.
Corporations, non-profits and leadership groups continue to host events on the campus, attracted by the proximity to downtown Indianapolis, easy access and cost-efficient facility rental.
Community outreach is built into the plan to attract more visitors to campus during the summer months. The institution serves as an important anchor to Indianapolis’ south side, and partnerships with entities such as Community Health Network and the Southside Quality of Life project keep the University connected to initiatives with a broad impact on the community.
“It’s not just about bringing in people to the campus but also what the university brings to the south side of Indianapolis,” Merkel-Diaz said.
One new highlight of this summer’s programming was the inaugural Radical Robotics Camp, hosted at UIndy with support from Center Grove High School. Members of the Center Grove team mentored camp participants (grades 3-6) with guidance from team mentor Chris Osborne.
Activities included science experiments and hands-on engineering projects, culminating in the construction and programming of an EV3 Lego robot, the same model used in FIRST Lego League competitions. The league is an introduction to robotics for students ages 9-14, some of whom go on to participate in events like the VEX Robotics Competition, held on campus for the first time in 2017.
Osborne said the goal is to simultaneously spark young people’s interest in science and build community. The effort aligns with the University focus on STEM education and training, including the launch of the new R.B. Annis School of Engineering.
Jose Sanchez, professor of engineering and director of the R.B. Annis School of Engineering, said the robotics camp provides a great introduction to skills that are crucial to successful STEM careers.
“STEM fields allow students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills at an early age and inspires them to discover and learn through science,” Sanchez said. “Engineering careers require many of the same skill sets, and career success in this area typically can be traced back to an early interest in STEM.”