A group of Mini U students at Brandon University is preparing for a mission to Mars this summer.
This year marks the first time the mini-university summer camp is offering a Mission to Mars Camp where students play the part of scientists and engineers tasked with designing, preparing and executing a simulated mission to the neighbouring planet.
The challenge incorporates everything from designing a spacecraft and choosing a suitable crew, to selecting a landing site and building a LEGO robotic rover to explore the planet’s surface.
"It’s all hands-on," Mission to Mars Camp instructor Stephen Beg said. "Kids use their big brains and they make all the designs for spacecrafts that we’re going to take to Mars."
Among the students simulating the mission is 10-year-old Michael Bouchie.
While showing off his rocket made out of a cardboard box and plastic materials, Bouchie said he has already made some new friends in the program, which is based out of BU’s Healthy Living Centre.
"It carries vehicles over to Mars with people in it," Bouchie said, referring to his rocket ship.
He said his favourite part of the program is being able to "build everything."
This summer marks Mini U’s 30th anniversary in Brandon. Director Nancy Stanley has been a part of the hands-on learning summer camp since the beginning and said it serves a definite need in Brandon.
Since its inception, more than 16,000 youth have taken part in Mini U programs.
"There’s a market, there’s a need out there for sure," Stanley said. "A lot more people work, so they need someone and they don’t want just daycare.
"We offer meaningful learning activities."
So far, 792 students have registered for the ages five to 15 summer camp that began on June 30 and will run till Aug. 22. Stanley said enrolment has been steady over the last few years.
"It’s helping a lot of young people enjoy education and maybe even help them determine some new career choices when they try different courses," she said. "It’s really great to see the joy and smiles on their faces."
Some of the popular programs being offered this summer from the nearly 60 from which to choose include archery, minecraft and a Horse Sense Camp, Stanley said.
"They get a chance to learn all the parts of the horse, the riding, safety, a whole host of things," she said. "It’s just great."
Mini U is a cost-recovery, not-for-profit organization that relies on registration fees, federal and provincial grants as well as grants from private and local organizations.
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