High school students get hands-on experience at SHP Science Camp

SHPScienceCamp1Cullen Akin of Florence extracts his own DNA during the inaugural SHP Science Camp.Instead of spending part of the summer with his friends, 17-year-old Cullen Akin of Florence, Ala. is spending a week in class for eight hours a day. Aiken is not in summer school, and he’s not in your typical class. This soon-to-be senior is one of nine high school students from across the state receiving some hands-on experience during the UAB School of Health Professions “Science Camp” sponsored by the School’s Office of Student Services and Diversity Committee.


“I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Akin. “This camp will broaden my horizon on all the skills I want to know about health.”

After hearing about the camp from his health science teacher at Florence High School, Akin called some family friends in Birmingham to have a place to stay. For 17-year-old Chante Smith of Fairfield, attending the camp was a no-brainer.

“I plan to go to UAB to become a nurse,” said Smith. “I wanted to get the experience.”

The students didn’t just sit and listen to lectures all day. They actually got their hands “dirty.” The students learned to suture on pig’s feet bought from a grocery store. They learned how they could collect their own DNA using inexpensive items at home and swabbed their mouths to collect their DNA. The class was able to use fiberglass and put casts on each other’s arms, just like the kind in any doctor’s office.

“What better way to get students excited about science then to give them the hands-on experience,” said Tino Unlap, associate professor in the biotechnology program in SHP.

SHPScienceCamp2Chante Smith of Fairfield prepares an arm cast on Sumner Harrell, another SHP Science Camp participant.The students did experiments with several SHP programs including occupational therapy, surgical physician assistant, biotechnology, nuclear medicine technology, cytology, medical technology, health information management and clinical laboratory science.

“I always wanted to do orthopedic surgery so I really enjoyed the suturing,” said Akin. “Occupational therapy was something I didn’t know about and was interested in it after hearing about it.”

“It was fun and interactive and certainly met all my expectations,” said Smith. “It’s a great learning experience especially if you going into the medical field.”

Unlap said the inaugural science camp has been such a huge success that they plan to bring it back next year.

“If we can get just two to three kids involved in science that works for me” said Unlap.