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Students wowed by Penta's STEM programs

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Derek McIntosh, 13, of Rossford, left, and Nick Hepfinger, 13, of Eastwood keep an eye on a water-powered rocket as they refill their own during Manufacturing Technologies class Wednesday at Penta Career Center.

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Hope Burkin and May Keeton, Perrysburg students getting ready to go to eighth grade, looked up and watched their bottle rocket soar through the air Wednesday at Penta Career Center.

The classmates picked up their bottle with fins and duck tape wrapped all over it and Penta instructor Ryan Thomas asked them what changes to make to the bottle for it to go higher and straighter.

"This is the first time I've been able to launch things," an excited young Burkin said. "We get to work in partners, too."

The two students were at the week-long Penta STEM summer camp. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Students at the Perrysburg Township school will be in five programs each day. The daily courses are green energy management, geographic information systems, construction carpentry, food science, and manufacturing technologies.

There are 100 students from grades 7 to 9 from area schools attending the camp, which costs each student $25. 

PHOTO GALLERY: Penta's STEM summer camp

The young Burkin and Keeton spent their Wednesday with the manufacturing technologies program. Mr. Thomas said the students used an angle tracker and an equation to determine how high the bottles went. The students also use science, technology, and engineering skills with the plan, construction, and adaptations they make on the bottles. 

"We do a lot of different things with math without giving them eight sheets of homework," Mr. Thomas said. "They are having fun and not even realizing they're learning."

In a neighboring classroom, Vicki Miller, a Penta alternative energy instructor, watched students burn biodiesel, fossil fuels, ethanol and compare it to burning kerosene. She said the students are taught what produces the most energy and what is better for the environment by the smoke it produces.

Construction carpentry instructor Rob Weaver said he tries to entice students into carpentry by getting them to be creative with it. Students built a dinosaur out of wood and even played Jenga with larger blocks of wood, some taller than the middle school students.

"Kids are less inclined now to get into physical work, they would rather be sitting down," Mr. Weaver said. "I let them look at this as an art form. I had four girls leave yesterday and say they never thought they would be [building a dinosaur] in carpentry."

Anthony Rorigi, a Penta graduate this year from Perrysburg, helped teach the younger students about geographic information systems and its usefulness in many fields, such as for fire fighters and in the Army.

"They love it. I'm surprised, because I mean, it's school," he said. "You get a lot of real-life experiences here. These activities are the same stuff we were doing our first few days of junior year."

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com or 419-356-8786 or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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