Virtual summer camp to teach kids, teens to design tiny homes for homeless veterans
By LOIS KINDLE
Registration is under way for STEM Xposure’s first Global Tiny Home Experience Virtual Summer Camp, coming up Aug. 3 to 14. It’s an opportunity for school age-children and teens from around the world to design a tiny home that will actually be built.
“By the end of camp, every student will have created a design for their own tiny home, which will be built and used to design a tiny home village for homeless veterans somewhere within Hillsborough County,” said architectural design professional Robyn Donaldson, founder and executive director of the STEM Xposure, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. (The site has yet to be determined.) “I believe that what we’re doing will have a huge impact on the lives of homeless veterans who deserve our support for their years of service to our country.
“Originally, STEM Xposure was designed to benefit minority students in East Tampa for a specific revitalization project,” Donaldson continued. “But now we’re going global with the same model to build a tiny home village for homeless veterans, which can also be used and implemented for other projects anywhere in the world. Any student anywhere is invited to join this virtual camp.”
Participants will be taught the basics of architectural design, including mapping, site investigation, sketching, scaled drawings and presentation skills by peers from previous architectural design and construction camps and designers and builders from the Tiny House Nation. They will learn to use SKETCHUP design software from Allison McDuffie, the company’s director of education and outreach, to create a 3D model of their tiny home using one of four design options.
Guest appearances during the camp’s virtual experience will include Zach Giffin and John Weisbarth, of the Netflix Tiny House Nation; NFL quarterback Jameis Winston, of the New Orleans Saints; Tricia Shuler of Jacobs Engineering; Tiara Rubio of SUFFOLK Construction; Larry Plank, director of the Tampa Bay STEM Network; Wendy Heath, of E@L Construction; and several tiny home advocates. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will provide a motivational kick off for the camp.
The overall goal is to spur student interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and show the community impact of architectural design and construction trades. By the time camp is over, participants will have a greater understanding of the skills and role of an architect and designer.
They’ll also have had the opportunity to see an operational tiny home community.
“As the owner of Circle Pond Tiny Home Community, I’m looking forward to hosting Robyn here in Ruskin to provide a virtual field trip, so her students can see how a smaller-roof footprint allows for a larger green space for outdoor activity, including a community garden,” said Debbie Caneen, of Sun City Center.
“I’m so inspired by Robyn’s curriculum at Stem Xposure,” she added. “Inspiring young students to design tiny homes can make such a difference in the lives of homeless veterans in our area. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
While there is a $25 registration fee, no one will be turned away for an inability to pay. A sponsor will be found for any participant who can’t afford the fee, Donaldson said. The camp itself is free.
Parents are invited to apply online at www.stemxposure.com.
The camp is made possible by the generosity of sponsors, community officials, local schools and colleges, parents, volunteers and businesses. Current sponsors include Renew Construction Services; A.D. Morgan Construction; Tampa Bay STEM Network; DuCon Construction; BECK; the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter; M & G Janitorial Services; and the City of Tampa.
Thanks to donations from these companies, STEM Xposure was able to award four $1,000 scholarships to student instructors and $50 stipends for the 25 participants for the first camp July 15 to 26.
Donaldson is now accepting donations, hoping to do the same for the second camp. For more information on donating, volunteering or participating, visit www.stemxposure.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 813-461-5599.