At the end of May, members of the SolarSPELL team returned to Tonto Creek Camp (TCC), SolarSPELL’s first Arizona implementation site, for the official pilot launch of the AZ Natural Resources library. The library resources will enhance TCC’s educational modules and outdoor STEM-related activities through a variety of interactive and engaging digital content and applications!

Upon arrival to camp, the team was warmly welcomed by Hannah, TCC’s fantastic Outdoor Education Coordinator. Hannah kindly gave the team a tour of the site, including the garden they are currently revamping and Arizona State University’s new turf field! After our tour, the team was able to join Hannah and TCC campers for the first Stream and Pond activity of the week – a STEM-focused activity that incorporates the SolarSPELL and Amazon Fire tablets. Since Tonto Creek Camp lacks reliable Internet connectivity, SolarSPELL provides the technology needed to allow campers and instructors to access educational activities, such as the Stream and Pond activity, anywhere throughout the campgrounds.

In the Stream and Pond activity, campers act as Ecologists, collecting data on two different bodies of freshwater in order to identify the differences between the two. Using the tablets, campers connect to the SolarSPELL and collect and submit their data – including observations on weather conditions, water flow, flora and fauna, etc. – via an open source data collection app called ODK Collect. The data from the surveys is collected and stored on the SolarSPELL’s Raspberry Pi and can be easily accessed, viewed, and analyzed by instructors to ensure a meaningful and impactful educational experience for campers!

It was incredible to witness campers connect with nature and with one another, and to see curiosity and creativity transpire as a result of these relationships. The incorporation of technology also added a unique element to the camp experience, providing campers with the opportunity to engage in real-world data collection methods.   

In addition to the Stream and Pond activity, campers were also able to explore the AZ Natural Resources library to learn more about the physics of archery as they patiently waited for their turn to step up to the shooting line. TCC instructors were pleasantly surprised to see campers highly engaged with the educational material on the library and were notably excited by how else they may be able to incorporate SolarSPELL technology and the library into other aspects of the camp experience.  

We see this collaboration with Tonto Creek Camp as an innovative approach to instilling in AZ’s youth a love for nature and STEM disciplines, and are looking forward to the next phase of the implementation. Stay tuned for what’s to come!