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Mindbender Academy Expands With More Learning Opportunities

Jun 27, 2016

Raytheon Project Included Designing and Building RocketsStudents Build Rockets with Straws, Clay and PaperRockets are Launched from a 45 Degree Angle to Gain Optimum DistanceStudents Learn How to Launch Rockets with Raytheon VolunteersStudents Experiment with DronesNokia Helps Make Mindbender Academy Possible Each YearParticipants Work With Mary KayStudents Learn from TIStudents Make Ice Cream with STEM Scouts

An impressive lineup of corporate partners and sponsors such as Raytheon, Nokia and Mary Kay returned for this year’s Mindbender Academy, with new partners Microsoft, STEM Scouts and Texas Instruments joining this year to introduce students to careers they may not have previously considered.

Mindbender Academy, organized by the Frisco Education Foundation (FEF), is a week-long summer camp for Frisco ISD students entering grades six through eight who are interested in exploring the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). It was held June 20-24 at the Career and Technical Education Center.

Students were placed in groups of 25, of mixed ages and genders, to reflect real-world working environments and provide opportunities for older students to mentor younger students.

On Monday, students sat in on Raytheon’s history of rocketry lesson where they learned about kinetic and potential energy. They then built rockets and launched them in a competition to see whose rocket could fly the greatest distance.

“It’s interesting,” said Anishka Siva, an incoming sixth grader at Cobb Middle School. “I really like how we get to build the rockets and we only have a certain amount of things we can use. It makes you think in a different way.”

Each day, students participated in fun, hands-on activities designed by the companies to encourage learning outside the classroom.

“Mindbender Academy has helped students hone in on something that either, ‘A,’ they loved to begin with, or ‘B,’ they didn’t know they liked at all,” said Allison Miller, director of the Frisco Education Foundation and Frisco ISD Partners in Education. “A lot of the jobs that are available now or are yet to exist are going to be STEAM related.”

This summer, 400 middle school students participated in the program. Registration closed in only 13 minutes due to high demand.

“I love how quickly this camp fills up,” said Elyse Hogan, systems engineer for the radar program at Raytheon. “To me it says that there is a real need in the community for a STEM summer camp. But also it means that Frisco puts on a great program at Mindbender and we’re so appreciative that we can be a part in it.”

To plan for future growth, the Frisco Education Foundation piloted an extended program this year with new partners, iCode and the Movie Institute. The companies led coding and filmmaking courses during extended hours to make Mindbender Academy a full-day camp.

iCode volunteers and instructors with FISD taught students about video game design through the fundamentals of game maker language (GML) in Game Maker Studio, a software program by Microsoft.

“There’s a real stereotype of computer programmers being locked in a dark room with a bag of Doritos and pounding away on a keyboard,” said Misti Clark, K-12 curriculum manager for iCode. “That’s not at all what we do. It’s bright, fun, creative and enjoyable, and I want students to be able to experience a part of that.”

The Movie Institute is focused on developing life and leadership skills through creativity and taught students about editing, directing and filmmaking.

Students signed up for the pilot program on a first-come, first-served basis and had to be enrolled as a Mindbender camper. They attended either the coding or filmmaking program when they were not in the morning or afternoon Mindbender Academy sessions.

“I’m hoping this camp instills a thought process in students who didn’t even think about STEAM before,” Miller said. “I hope they say to themselves, ‘Hey, I might be good at this and I like it,’ or ‘I never knew about that’ and that it also nurtures those who were already on that path.”

Grants from Raytheon, Nokia, and CoServ, some of Mindbender Academy’s first corporate partners, make the event possible each year.

FEF Mindbender Committee Co-Chairs Peter Burns and Audie Adkins enlisted over 100 community and corporate volunteers to assist in delivering a successful and fun camp.

For more information on Mindbender Academy and the Frisco Education Foundation, visit

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