"I did not think college was an opportunity for me before this camp."
"Overall the camp was amazing and it got me to learn more about college and to help me get prepared to go to college."
"After learning about the technology, I wanted more time because of how fun it was."
These are comments from students participating in Oregon State University Metro Extension's 4-H-sponsored Mariachi STEAM camp.
After the very successful 2016 pilot year, organizer Romanna Flores decided to offer it again this summer. She welcomed new faces along with several familiar ones, as nearly every student who participated last summer decided to sign up again. The camp fuses the passion these students hold for music with learning experiences in Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM).
Youth have the chance to write their own simple piece of music, for example, record it and use technology to place that piece in a greeting card. In another class, students analyzed audio signal properties on their own digitally recorded music while learning about the math behind basic filtering techniques. Youth also use editing and digital programming software, among other programs.
"It's a way for kids to explore their passion for music and see math and science through a different lens," Flores said. "Their first passion is music, but they have authentic engagement in these other topics at camp."
During the last week of July, youth from Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Portland school districts packed their bags and headed down to the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis where they learned from Hillsboro and Forest Grove music teachers along with OSU faculty and students.
"I absolutely loved mariachi camp," said Yani Martin Garcia, an incoming freshman at Forest Grove High School. "You meet so many new people and the teachers are great. They really helped me advance."
This is Yani's second year participating in camp as a violinist. Yani and her fellow campers used Intel's Arduino 101 development boards to make electronic music.
"They teach you how to use the technology and it was amazing to see it work," said Yani, who hopes to go to college and become a violin teacher.
"Music is the first subject I would choose out of everything," Yani said. "But the camp made me realize those other subjects are really important, too."
Not only does the camp help youth further their passions and explore new ones, it introduces them to a college atmosphere. Many of the student participants are the first members of their families thinking about going to college, Flores said.
The camp teaches students to take the discipline they commit to their music and apply it to other things, said Flores, an Intel employee who started volunteering with 4-H years ago when her son got involved.
Flores holds a life-long passion for art and creativity, which she applies to her work designing interfaces for applications.
"It's all about exposure and access," she said. The camp "exposes kids to relationships, possibilities, higher education institutions and talents they don't know they have yet."