The words "summer camp" may stir memories of cabins in the woods and "bug juice," but Saint Leo University's academic summer camps provide opportunities for learning, creativity, and friendship.

Students attending camps this summer at Saint Leo University can tell a double loop from a central pocket loop fingerprint and a Muggle from a magical creature, thanks to a variety of summer programs taking place at the university.

Criminal justice: not as 'seen on TV'

Saint Leo offered its CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) camp for the second year from June 16 through June 22 for rising high school juniors and seniors. Like the Girls Can! Overnight Robotics Camp, this residential camp allows students to stay in residence halls at University Campus and get a taste of college life. CSI camp provides an opportunity to learn several aspects of forensic science as well as how to present evidence in a courtroom setting. Campers learned everything from sketching a crime scene, to dusting for fingerprints, to the proper techniques for recovery of human remains.

They learned that crime scene investigation is not like it's portrayed on TV. It's hot, it's messy, and a crime isn't solved in one hour.

"I didn't know we would be doing so much in-depth measuring," said Katie Kirkwood, of Land O' Lakes, FL, who added that she is enjoying the camp.


Charlotte Braziel, criminal justice instructor, taught the campers about crime scene investigation, including marking, measuring, and sketching a scene. Dr. Robert Sullivan, assistant professor of criminal justice, and Dr. Karin May, assistant professor of criminal justice, led the students in learning fingerprinting and handling of evidence. Dr. Joseph Cillo, assistant professor of criminal justice, and a former defense attorney, taught the campers about how to document and present evidence in court.

This year, 18 students attended CSI camp. For Abigail Gangemi-Hague of Philadelphia, this was a second trip to CSI Summer Camp. She will be enrolled at Saint Leo in the fall to study criminal justice. "I loved it last year," Gangemi-Hague said about returning to CSI camp in 2019. "I'm interested in criminology. I want to be in the field."

Literature spurs imagination

For the younger students, this year Saint Leo hosted a new camp, Hogwarts Academy. This day camp for ages 9 to 12 immersed the campers in the world of Harry Potter. Campers are making new friends, conjuring up some wacky creations, and engaging in fun activities (such as Quidditch) based on the international bestseller Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

The Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library offered this camp to inspire a love of reading and learning in young people by showing them "that literature is a gateway to new worlds, new ideas, and new friendships," said John David Harding, assistant professor of writing/research.

The library staff also wants to do more community outreach, according to Doris Van Kampen-Breit, interim director of the library, and Hogwarts Academy appealed to local parents.

The young campers created their own board games based on the Harry Potter books and characters. Most were similar to Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and Trivial Pursuit, Van Kampen-Breit said.

STEM through robotics

This year, Saint Leo offered a co-ed robotics camp for the first time. This camp for ages 10 to 14 was held June 24 – 28.

Saint Leo's robotics summer camp program has a goal of increasing young people's interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, and especially to open young girls' eyes to the opportunities in STEM fields, said Dr. Monika Kiss, professor of mathematics. 

The campers built and program Lego EV3 Mindstorm robots in their daily sessions along with fun camp activities. As a part of programing, they use their mathematical skills to design algorithms, their science skills to figure out what their robot can and can't do, and their problem-solving skills to come up with excellent programs, Kiss said. In addition to the academic skills they will learn by learning to program, they will also learn a lot of soft skills, such as teamwork, communication skills, leadership skills, and improved self-confidence.

Marcos Montero, a camper who attends Bell Shoals Baptist Academy in Brandon, FL, teamed with Talia Fernandez, who attends Academy at the Lake in Land O' Lakes, FL, to program their robot. They worked to program their robot to move. "We figured out what 12 inches is to a rotation [of the robot's wheels]," Marcos explained.

"Look at you with your math," Kiss said, praising the team.

Recreation, Athletics camps continue

Other Saint Leo academic camps included Game Design Academy and Social Justice Camp. The university's Athletics and Recreation camps continue with the following:

  • Saint Leo Recreation Little Lions camp – Monday, July 15, through Friday, July 19, for ages 5 to 12 (with before- and after-camp care);
  • Co-ed basketball camp – Monday, July 29, through Friday, August 2, for ages 6 to 16;
  • Girls middle school volleyball camp – Monday, Monday, July 22, through Wednesday, July 24, for ages 11 to 14; and,
  • Girls high school volleyball camp – Thursday, July 25, through Saturday, July 2, for ages 14 to 18.

For information about Saint Leo University's summer camps, go to