Summer 2017

As technology continues to make rapid advances the demand for a skilled workforce in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is crucial.  Way a head of the game, Janice Williams, Senior Vice President of YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, recognized the need to encourage STEM learning 23 years ago when she launched Thingamajig.

Thingamajig is the Y’s signature summertime STEM event that challenges kids in camps all over the Greater Washington DC area to create their own original invention, culminating in a one day convention. During the event, children compete for prizes, participate in physical fitness activities, enjoy a meal, and just have fun!! For the first time ever, youth from YMCA Youth & Family Services (YFS)’s Northwest Park Community Center’s Thingamajig Camp swept the “No More Broken Eggs” challenge taking first, second, third and fourth places!  In the “Paper Made” category, they earned first place and a fourth place award as well.

Thingamajig is the area’s largest invention convention, with over 4,000 youth participants. It gives YMCA camp participants opportunities to use STEM skills to respond to a number of real world challenges such as creating a life improvement for an elderly person to inventing fashion using recycled goods. The 5th and 6th graders at YFS’ Northwest Park Community Center attended a three-week camp that encouraged them to think through challenge problems and to use their imagination and skills in solving them. One of the challenges called “No More Broken Eggs challenged students to safely drop an egg without it breaking from a height of 10 feet. When judges calculated their scores, students from Northwest Park had won all four places!!!

Throughout the year, as participants in YFS’ Northwest Park Community Center, the kids received academic assistance, fitness and nutrition education, character building, and enrichment activities. Thanks to generous donors, this year we were able to also offer summer camp to these youth. For the students at Northwest Park, family finances don’t allow for them to participate in traditional summer programming that other youth are privileged to have.

Program Coordinator Serena Locust says, “These children are so grateful for the attention and assistance of caring adults in their lives. Whether they are new to our program or have been here for many years, they continue to blossom as we open wider a window on the world. As English is not the primary language for many of these children, this program helps them navigate an English-speaking world.”

Because of the programs offered throughout the year to young people at the Northwest Park Community Center, children not only have a safe place to go to throughout the year but also are being introduced to the limitless world of opportunity that STEM provides.

To find out how you can help this valuable academic and enrichment program continue for the children of Northwest Park, please contact YFS’ Director of Community Development, Patti Bryce at, [email protected]