Students learn through doing at Police Activities League camp

Published 8:11 pm Monday, June 18, 2018

Summer is undoubtedly upon Beaufort County, and with the season come a variety of summer camps taking place throughout the area. At the Beaufort County Police activities League, 23 lucky youngsters are nearly half-way through a four-week STEM camp designed to teach about boating and aviation.

On Thursday, kids enrolled in the camp had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a hot air balloon, as Brian Hoyle and Tim Lattin, both with the Project Uplift USA, demonstrated the principals of unpowered flight. Together, the pair coached students through the construction of their own tissue paper envelopes, similar in theory to the ones on a hot air balloon.

HOT AIR: Volunteers from the Project Uplift USA instruct students at the BCPAL STEM camp on the use of a double burner unit. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

“ Part of our nonprofit is outreach using hot air balloons,” Lattin said. “We do a variety of different things including school educational programs, and this is a neat thing we do with the camp. This is a teambuilding exercise, where we had teams of seven get together to build these balloons.“

Using a propane heat source, the young people were able to make their balloons fly. In addition to creating their own balloon envelopes, students also had the opportunity to climb inside of a balloon basket and operate a double burner unit.

“We just want them to be excited about learning and being involved and stepping outside of themselves,” Lattin said.

While the students were excited about their balloons, this is but one piece of the four-week long camp. The experiences the kids have at BCPAL would make many adults envious. From visiting military bases and climbing in the cockpits of F-15 fighter jets to learning to scuba dive and sail on the Pamlico, the four week program offers a wide berth of activities, all designed to spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

HOMEMADE: Using tissue paper, students constructed their own balloon envelopes, which they let fly inside the Police Activities League. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

Unlike the typical classroom lecture, however, the BCPAL course is designed to get students excited about learning through hands-on activities. Rather than a dull explanation of the physical forces and principals that make boats and planes work, the program starts with the basic question: why does this work?

“Generally, we set aside so many slots for the Boys & Girls Club, Pamlico Pals and the Washington Housing Authority,” BCPAL President Al Powell said. “So we have a demonstrated group of at-risk, at-need group of kids. We have a max of 24 to 26 slots.”

For more information on BCPAL visit