A focus on STEM learning


By Sophie Pappas

Summer is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing for parents: finding good summer camps. For Pam and Brandon Thalmann, the parents of three boys and the local franchise owners of Engineering for Kids, summer is great time for kids to stay on top of math and science learning.

Founded by Dori Roberts, a former math and science teacher, Engineering for Kids is a multi-state program with branches that focus exclusively on science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEM learning.

STEM learning is a crucial focus for 21st century educators, with everyone from Zionsville Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Robison to President Barack Obama emphasizing its importance in a competitive globalized economy.

“I came across the company kind of by accident online. I’ve never seen this before,” Pam said. “My first thought was: ‘I wonder if this is [in Zionsville]because I want to enroll my son.’”

After plans to open an Orange Leaf franchise fell through several years ago, the Thalmanns decided to launch Engineering for Kids in Zionsville through a partnership with the ZCS elementary and middle schools.

“My husband and I thought we could totally do this,” Pam said.

Both Pam and her husband have engineering degrees, and work full-time as engineers for Frito Lay in Frankfort.

The first Engineering for Kids classes started in Zionsville in February. The success of the after-school programs quickly caught the attention of parents and students.

“Next year we will probably offer semester-long programs, instead of seven-week programs after school, and this was at the request of parents,” Pam said.

Engineering for Kids summer camps will start in June, and will be half-day, weeklong camps. Pricing for these camps begins at $158, and the courses are broken up into age groups.

As for the types of classes, some of the most popular courses are the Lego Robotics and the Mechanical Engineering classes.

Pam said that she expected the Lego course to be one of the most popular, because the students enrolled get to build individual robots and program the robots to complete tasks.

“These are Lego kits that most kids aren’t going to have at home,” Pam said. “They have motors and sensors. The first week of class is about following instructions and building the robots. After that, they do a lot more working on the laptops.”

Using computer programs, students can tell the robots to walk using color sensors, or even train the robots to fight each other.

“It’s their own creation and their own design,” Pam said. “The kids love the robot battle.”

For more information about Engineering for Kids, email Pam and Brandon Thalmann at indianapolis@engineeringforkids.net.