Purdue camp uses cheerleading to teach technology concepts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Getting teenagers, especially girls, interested in pursuing careers in technological fields is no easy feat, but a former Purdue University cheerleader says a camp she is organizing can help make those subjects more enticing.

For the second year, Christi Jacobs, who was a Purdue cheerleader for four years and captain of the squad her senior year, is in charge of Cheering in the Classroom, a camp for middle school and high school students who have an interest in cheerleading or dance.

The camp will be offered June 22-26 on the Purdue campus and is directed toward girls, but is open to any student who is an incoming seventh-grader to a high school senior. Participants need no background in technology, but should have an interest in learning more about the subject through hands-on activities.

Campers will participate in a variety of activities and sessions that give them an overview of the various technology-related fields and real-life applications by incorporating the topic of cheerleading into examples.

Samantha Brissey, a sophomore in the Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision, is helping Jacobs organize the camp.

Jacobs, who recently received a master’s degree from Purdue in technology education, said data she collected for her master’s thesis last year found that Cheering in the Classroom made a difference in participants’ views on technology.

“Two statistically significant results I can report are one, that campers found technology more interesting after attending the camp, and two, that participants believed they had a brighter future in a technology-related field after attending the camp,” she said. “It is extremely encouraging to find that presenting technology in a nontraditional way can change attitudes.”

Jacobs, who will be starting a new job in software technical sales at IBM in Chicago this summer, said campers also benefited from learning about the wide range of opportunities available in technology.

“They were all really surprised at what kind of jobs are out there,” she said. “And one of last year’s participants was so inspired that she decided she wants to study electrical engineering technology in college.”

Purdue cheerleaders and College of Technology students and faculty will teach the sessions. Activities will be offered that relate to all of the majors the College of Technology offers: aviation technology, building construction management, computer and information technology, computer graphics technology, electrical engineering technology, industrial technology, mechanical engineering technology, and organizational leadership and supervision.

Activities will include:

  • Programming a 2-foot-tall robot to perform a choreographed dance. Students will mix their own music and will perform the same dance along with the robot. This activity will allow students to learn computer programming and the physics of sound.
  • An activity at Purdue’s Envision Center that will utilize motion-capture technology commonly used in video games. Students will create a cheerleading routine on the computer from captured cheerleading motions and will author their own video game. This session will help campers learn about computer graphics, electrical engineering, robotics and physics.
  • A session on aviation technology. Participants will throw baskets in a pool and will learn the physics behind how a plane or object takes off and lands.
  • A “supply-chain game” that will teach campers how products, such as cheerleading uniforms and pompoms, get from point A to point B.

To register, go online to http://www.tech.purdue.edu/Student_Life/diversity/cheering_in_the_classroom.cfm, fill out the registration and medical forms, and return them to the address provided. The cost is $200 per person and includes all accommodations, meals and activities. Students will stay in air-conditioned Hillenbrand Hall and eat in Purdue dining courts.

Those who would like to attend the camp but lack the financial means can contact Jacobs at (847) 533-4945, cjacobs@purdue.edu. Questions about program content can be directed to Jacobs.

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