This summer, Talbot Mentors (TM) held a successful Science Camp program. Run by Paul Popick, who has over 40 years of engineering experience, this project gave campers an opportunity to spend a week exploring the world of science. This is the third year for the Science Camp and, according to Popick, the most successful. “We had scientists, not teachers,” he emphasized, “doing experiments and talking about their perspective on how it can be used in industry or research.” The volunteers included Lou Cotispodi, Vince Kelly, Bill Bailey, Paul Gilmore, and Joan Muzzillo.
The morning part of the one-week camp was set up to give middle schoolers an opportunity to conduct scientist-led hands-on-experiments which involved robotics, physics, chemistry, and biology. In the afternoon, using scientific methods, they worked on their chosen individual projects (most campers selected the building and programming of a robot). By that Friday, prepared charts and the completed projects were presented to family and friends during the Science Fair. A satisfaction survey conducted after the program ended showed that 100% of the kids gave the science camp a glowing review in quality and that 100% of the scientist volunteers agreed that it was a valuable volunteering opportunity for them.
This is not surprising for Popick who realized when he was growing up that knowledge in math and science was life-changing in that it was a way of securing his future. He hoped to impart the same message to children, especially since “there is a shortage of scientists in this country, as well as a basic literacy in math,” he said. Hearing that the smartest kids in school were being tutored, he set out to teach those who couldn’t afford it and who could benefit from his enthusiasm and commitment to give back to his community. When he met Natalie Costanzo, former Executive Director of Talbot Mentors, she eagerly took him up on his offer and helped to arrange a partnership with the Y for the tutoring. While working with the kids, Popick got inspired to conduct a science fair, and the original one-day presentation, three years ago, evolved into one week.
As for the future, Popick would like to expand the program, bringing it into the schools and other groups. “It’s a great opportunity that I would be happy to help set up.” He’s pleased with the contributions he and others have been able to make and says it’s been rewarding to him in other ways. “I try to make it experiential, not like a regular classroom, and the kids get interested and don’t realize they’re learning something. But I learned lots of stuff too. I also had to build the robot beforehand and had to figure out how to program it and then create the course. I loved doing the other projects, as well.”
Gerson Martinez, Executive Director of TM, is also thrilled with the results: “We are fortunate to be a part of a community with so many talented and generous professionals like the scientists who volunteered their time with us this summer. The program was so successful that we are now exploring additional programming throughout the school year to engage new volunteers with skills to offer and to strengthen mentoring relationships.”
If you have a special talent, or are a culinary professional, creative artist, tutor, translator, etc. and can share your expertise with our mentors and mentees, or if you’d like to explore other volunteer opportunities, contact Gerson Martinez at email@example.com or by phone at 410-770-5999.