COSAM News Articles 2022 July COSAM’s Office of Outreach concludes fun-filled, educational summer—acknowledges impact of community and campus partnerships on camp’s success

COSAM’s Office of Outreach concludes fun-filled, educational summer—acknowledges impact of community and campus partnerships on camp’s success

Published: 08/01/2022

By: Leslie Leak

After five sessions covering topics like genomes, weather, dinosaurs, rocks, forensics, space and more, the Office of Outreach in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, concluded its final Science Matters camp. The camp impacted 340 total students in rising 1st-6th grades over the summer. Science Matters provided elementary students with a supercharged science experience exploring various themes in science through age-appropriate experiments, technology, art projects and hands-on activities.

Campus experts partnered with COSAM’s Office of Outreach to provide informative presentations and demos on wide-ranging scientific topics. This collaborative effort enriched the camp experience.


During the fifth camp session, held July 18-22, rising first through fourth graders became investigative experts as they learned about forensic science. Rising fifth and sixth graders had an out-of-this-world encounter exploring space at their NASA-themed camp.

In the forensics sciences camp, Nathan Nguyen with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, or ADFS, gave young investigators an in-depth look into the services ADFS provides through firearms and tool mark, toxicology, death investigation, drug chemistry, forensic biology/DNA and implied consent testing. He explained how these types of services assist law enforcement in helping solve crimes.

Detective Stephanie Johns with the Auburn Police Department, or APD, talked with students about the role a detective plays in crime investigations. She explained the fingerprinting process and demonstrated how substances like powder, ninhydrin reagent and super glue react with the oils and proteins left from fingerprints on different surfaces. Det. Johns presented each student with their own fingerprinting kit, and they examined the loops, whirls and arches of their own fingerprints using baby powder, tape and paper.

APD Sergeant Sistrunk and officers from the APD K9 unit taught students how dogs keep us safe—from tracking scents to searching stadiums—and led fascinating demonstrations of K9 dogs identifying harmful narcotic and bomb substances. APD Officer Bryant, a school resource and motor unit officer, gave students an up-close view of his motorcycle and showed helmet and radio equipment communications. He concluded with a thrilling reenactment of a traffic stop where K9 dog Leon tracked down the scent of Det. Johns who had fled the scene.

Pam Haney and the team of canine instructors from the  Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Canine Performance Services, or CPS, led an informative presentation and activity explaining how they breed and train Labrador Retrievers to help the military and police—from the APD to the New York City Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau—identify bombs and narcotics. After learning amazing facts about olfaction and how dogs have 300 million sensory receptors—compared to the 6 million humans have—students observed CPS detection dogs detect the scent of smokeless powder hidden in various student-made boxes which served as training aids. Students listened in amazement as Haney shared that around 150 dogs are currently in training at CPS, puppies remain with their mothers until around seven weeks old and litters are named in order of the alphabet.

At the NASA-themed space camp, rising fifth and sixth graders observed engineering student design projects constructed for the purpose of space exploration. Kyle Schulze, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, showed students a robot designed by the Auburn University Robotics Mining Challenge Team for the NASA LUNABOTICS Robotic Mining Competition held each year. With a design goal of creating systems that make it easier for humans to explore the solar system, the team of engineering undergraduates designed the robot to dig up ice on the moon for the purpose of turning ice into fuel.

Schulze communicated the importance of building and testing throughout the engineering design process and showed students other projects built by engineering undergraduates like a human-powered lunar rover made of carbon fiber, a 3D printer designed to print shapes that are advantageous to work in space, an inexpensive stove designed to heat water effectively and safely and the adaptive bicycle constructed for Gary Godfrey so that he could participate in Bo Bikes Bama earlier this spring.

Pre-service teachers in the College of Education assisted with the June Science Matters camps. The future teachers got their feet wet by interacting with campers and teaching science lessons. They were also able to learn about classroom management techniques from experienced teachers in a real-world setting.

Other campus partnerships featured at this year’s Science Matters camp included interactive stations from the Auburn University Bee Laboratory; a geology presentation by Willis Hames, professor in the Department of Geosciences; a hands-on experience in marine biology with Kate Buckley, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; a presentation in landscape architecture by Frank Hu, assistant professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; a solar experience with Melissa Halford, lecturer and observatory coordinator in the Department of Physics; an interactive algae experience with Isabel Bella, an aquatic algae lab student; a dinosaur experience with Ray Wilhite, anatomy laboratory coordinator with the College of Veterinary Medicine and paleontology coordinator with the Auburn University Museum of Natural History; and collaborations with the Southeastern Raptor Center, the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment Sciences, Eagle Eye TV and Auburn University Athletics.

Through the Office of Outreach’s collaborative efforts with community and campus partnerships, the impact to promote science, technology, engineering and math education is wide-reaching.

“The collaborative efforts among so many science and technology-driven areas across Auburn’s campus has made this summer’s Science Matters camp a unique learning experience,” said Director of Science Matters, Kristen Jackson. “The campers were thrilled with the activities across campus and learning about all of the exciting, STEM-related opportunities available at Auburn University as evident by their active engagement.”

COSAM’s Office of Outreach offers special activities, workshops and programs to promote scientific literacy and interest among K-12 students and teachers. Outreach activities are designed to provide a continuum of programs for students in various stages of their educational development.

For more information on Science Matters camp or other outreach activities, please contact Mary Lou Ewald, COSAM director of outreach, at

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