One of the ways Abilene ISD administrators hoped The LIFT could be used was as a site for summer camps and a recruiting tool to lure younger students to the facility for classes when they reach high school.

Consider that mission accomplished once again this summer as The LIFT hosted three weeks of summer camps – seeing more than 250 kids walk through its doors to take part in hands-on experiments in the MakerSpace, the culinary arts kitchen, the auto shop, the welding shop, and other spaces.

This year’s camps served grades 3-8 as elementary and middle school students got a first-hand glimpse at what life is like at The LIFT and ATEMS. “These camps are providing beneficial – and fun – learning experiences for elementary and middle school students in STEM and CTE,” said Jay Ashby, director of The LIFT. “These opportunities, along with our high school programming, are at the core of achieving the vision that was set for The LIFT and how it can serve kids of all ages in our community.”

Camps started at The LIFT the week after the 2022-23 school year ended with two weeks of Career Exploration Camp for middle schoolers. Those students had hands-on learning opportunities in the following career exploration areas: Automotive, Carpentry, Electrical, Welding, Culinary Arts, Graphic Design, Engineering, Cybersecurity, Coding, Information Technology, and Digital Communications.

The third week of middle school camp was based off feedback that Ashby said he and other administrators and teachers received from parents about the desire for even more focused training on post-high school career possibilities. That’s where the idea for Career Academic Camp came as students had three days of hands-on learning opportunities in the career cluster of their choice: Industrial Trades (carpentry, electrical, welding, automotive), Culinary Arts, Technology (coding, cybersecurity, networking systems), Engineering and Robotics, and Design and Media Graphics (graphic design, audio/video production).

The camp for students in grades 3-5 was spent in the MakerSpace where students spent time in the Audio Exploration Maker Camp. Students explored STEM principles of sound and acoustics
through modifying different materials. Using the MakerSpace equipment, campers built and played simple wind, percussion, and string instruments, from kazoos to woodblock drums to pan
flutes and single string zithers. Each student was able to create their own instrument during their time in the camp and then take it home.

“These camps are designed to be really hands-on,” Ashby said, “because we want these kids to have a feel for what they can do out here. Hopefully that plants a thought in their head that this
would be a good place for them to be when they get into high school. Last summer we had multiple students go to our camps who were then freshman at either Cooper or Abilene High this year who ended up coming out here, whether it was as a student at ATEMS, or as students at Abilene High or Cooper who came out here for a class or two.”