SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — More than a dozen middle school students are getting hands on experience with science and much more this week at Augustana University in Sioux Falls. A diverse group of kids is taking part in the STEM camp thanks to funding from Xcel Energy, the City of Sioux Falls and Augie.

As she takes in Wednesday’s lesson on exercise science, Alannah Coster from Whittier remembers back to when she first heard about Augie’s STEM camp.

“I was in class and my teacher said, ‘Hey, there’s a STEM camp going at Augustana. Does anyone want to join?’ I was the first hand up,” Coster said.

The future Washington High School freshman wants to be a forensic anthropologist when she grows up. Activities this week are getting her prepared for what might be ahead.

Alannah Coster: Like just yesterday we dissected a chick embryo.
Matt Holsen: What was that like?
Alannah Coster: It was really gross. It smelled really nasty. It really did.

“They’re doing everything from genetics to coding, a little bit of working with robots, some exercise science and a big theme throughout the week has been sustainability,” Seasson Vitiello said.

Vitiello is an Associate Professor of Biology at Augustana. The camp is led by Augie teachers and students.

“We really know that students start to lose interest in science about the middle school age,” Vitiello said.

So keeping them engaged is a big reason for this camp that is in its first year.

“I’m curious about all kinds of things. I’m especially curious about DNA and genetics. It’s just been really fun to see kids get excited about their own passion in science,” Vitiello said.