Tooling around for the summer
Tooling around for the summer
Kids learn about inventing and manufacturing at the Nuts, Bolt & Thingamajigs camps.
Ages: 12 to 14
Cost: $50 to $200
Duration: Week-long summer camps; June to August

The Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs is designed to get kids excited about learning how things are made, said Patricia Lee, the camp's marketing director.

"A decade ago schools started eliminating shop classes," said Lee. "But it's really in sixth to eighth grades that kids should be exposed to all options of what they might want to pursue in college or as a job."

So eight years ago, the Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association and trade schools around the country collaborated to start summer camps to teach kids about inventing and manufacturing. The FMA provides grants to schools that host week-long camps that teach engineering, biotech, the business side of manufacturing and even fine jewelry making.

Kids learn how to use lasers, grinders, welding machines, and all kinds of basic and advanced manufacturing tools used in the industry.

"The objective is to take them through the entire start-to-finish process," said Lee. "We also want to show how a great idea can potentially grow into a company." About 3,000 kids have gone through the camps, said Lee.

Donations to fund the camps took a hit during the recession. In the last few years, the number of camps had to be scaled back to about a dozen from 30.

As the economy improves, Lee said she expects the number of camps to increase again.

This year, seven states -- Utah, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois and California -- will offer the camp. "We're even holding an all-girls camp in Chicago for the second year in a row," she said.

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney - Last updated April 27 2012: 3:17 PM ET
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