All posts by Alisa VinZant

Cosmic Lander: An Engineering Challenge

Here is an engineering challenge for you. Drop a water balloon from the second story of a building onto a rocky bottom and have it survive. In Cosmic Lander, our students do just that!

In this popular class at AstroCamp, our campers transform into teams of engineers. They model landing fragile scientific gear (the water balloon) onto a hard and rocky surface (Mars). They learn that sending rovers and probes to other places in our solar system takes a process of steps.

Step 1: Plan it
Work with teammates. Design it, draw it out and make a plan. Know what you are going to do and how much it’ll cost. NASA has a budget, therefore so do our students. Different materials are worth different amounts of points.


Step 2: Build It
Bring the design into reality. Use appropriate materials. Figure out a way to make it work together.

engineer 1 engineering build

Step 3: Test It
Give it a try. See if it works. If it didn’t, then analyze what went wrong, make a correction, and test it again. If necessary, start the process over until you are successful (you will be successful). Never give up!

engineering done

It is unusual for scientists and engineers to find the best and most successful way of doing something the very first time. Keep in mind the words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Every attempt is a new piece of knowledge.

Written by: Mimi Garai

Take Summer Camp Home with You

The time has come for summer camp to end. It’s been full of adventures, silliness, and memories. But that doesn’t  mean that it has to be gone from your hearts forever. Here are a few ways to keep living the camp life style even as the new school year comes rolling on in.summer camp

Sing and play often. You made a bunch of new friends, have tons of inside jokes, and learned a ton of new songs and games. An easy way to keep the spirit of camp alive is to pay it forward. Teach your friends back at home the songs and games. In no time at all it’ll feel like you are breathing that mountain air again!

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Turn those new camp friends into lifelong friendships. A great way to help make that happen is by being each other’s pen pal. Sit down a write out a thoughtful letter. Writing by hand not only allows you to think longer about the person, but it takes more time, energy, thought, and meaning than just a simple text message.

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Reminisce about camp. Take out those pictures, sit down with friends or family, and tell them all about your crazy adventure. As you tell the silly, crazy, and fantastic stories, more details may come to light that you may have overlooked the first time.

summer camp 4

Follow AstroCamp on our journey. We are on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. We post fun science videos and pictures of space and camp life. If you ever feel like camp is too far away from your heart, just look us up online and remember that AstroCamp is always right around the corner!

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Exploring New World

AstroCamp: the summer frontier. These are the voyages of the campers who attend. Their one or two-week mission: exploring strange new worlds, to seek out new friends and new interests. To boldly go where they have never gone before.

There are so many strange new worlds to explore during a summer at AstroCamp, from the fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons to the bridge of a spaceship in Artemis. These new worlds offer not only a sense of discovery for our campers, but a creative outlet.


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When playing D&D, there are rules in place, but the real limit is the imagination of the player. You decide what your character is like as a person, how they interact with the world and characters around them, and what they do. The dice and dungeon master tell you if your actions are successful, but the more creativity you apply to it, the more fun it is for you and all the other players.


With Artemis, campers each play a role (engineering, navigation, etc.) on the bridge of a fictional spacecraft. Each person needs to complete their job and work together for the mission to run smoothly. Again, the more creativity they bring to the task at hand, the more enjoyable it is. Campers will even play characters rather than just participate as themselves, engaging creativity, teamwork, and problem solving at once.


Technology vs. Technology!

Technology is practically inescapable in today’s day and age. Everyone has a smart phone, computer, tablet, gaming system, or some combination. It is used every single day for communication, entertainment, or as a tool.

Here at camp we highly encourage all of our students to put away their electronics and focus on the experience at hand. However that is not to say that we don’t love using technology. In fact, we try to focus on technology that is mindful rather than mindless.  But how can you tell the difference between mindless technology and mindful technology?

Mindless technology can be the use of cell phones, video games, surfing the internet, etc. It is a way to simply pass the time with minimal interactions of thought processes or other people. It is the scrolling through a news feed or flicking through images. This is the technology that we are ditching at AstroCamp.

Instead, we have a few classes focused on mindful technology, the use of electronics to expand your brain. A few example are building robots in our robotics class, using special programs to design something to be 3D printed, making a windmill, creating extreme videos of awesome adventures such as mountain biking or scuba diving. Mindful technology is using computers, cameras, and other electronics as a resource and tool. This is the type of technology that we want our campers to get experience with and their hands on.

So the next time you are on your computer or smart phone ask yourself, is this for mindless or mindful reasons? If it is for mindless, is there a way that you can turn it into mindful? Your time is valuable and important. Don’t cheat yourself by wasting it away. Rather, create something or learn about something every chance you get.


Cooking Up Life Skills

No matter your age, knowing how to cook for yourself is an invaluable skill, and the earlier you start, the easier it is in adulthood. Whenever campers show up on arrival day, they can grab some lemonade or a snack at AstroCantina, but many will return for a cooking class later in the week. This class isn’t just about learning to cook delicious food, however; it also builds a sense of responsibility in what you eat.

Cooking 1

Preparing food yourself is one of the easiest ways to start eating healthy because you are choosing everything you’re ingesting. There are no secret ingredients, no set menu, just what you specifically choose to prepare. Even then, you might want to eat something, but not know how to properly prepare it to your taste; that’s where classes like the ones campers take at AstroCantina come in.


For instance, all campers can make a vegetarian quesadilla during their first class, but are given some freedom to choose how much of their ingredients they use or adding spices they want. This helps them learn how to make a delicious, nutritious meal. Once that opportunity is put out there, it forms a framework they can apply for the rest of their life. The more experience they gain, the less intimidating cooking becomes in the future as well, allowing it to be a more normal part of their daily life for years to come. It doesn’t hurt that they learn the satisfaction of eating something they just worked hard to create either.

Cooking yum


Art and Creativity at Camp

Art is subjective, it is different and unique to each and every person and comes in different forms and mediums! We believe there is no right or wrong way to pursue art and we strive to foster our campers imaginations and creative abilities in a positive direction. That is why AstroCamp offers many outlets for expression of creativity, as well as provides a space for creative development.

art and creativity

There are many different mediums of art around camp. We are excited about expanding our repertoire this summer with the introduction of a few new classes. Art is all about exploring a medium that is interesting or fun to you.

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Arts and Crafts is a general exploration of creativity. It is a project based class, where an instructor will lead the group through an activity like tie-dying or screen printing, but the freedom of design is up to the camper.

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We also offer more specified classes. Whether it’s ceramics, painting, blacksmithing, cooking, film or photography, animation, acting, or music, AstroCamp has it all. So put those creative hats on and get to making something!


Experiencing Nature Hikes at AstroCamp

When campers come to AstroCamp, the cool classes and challenge of the ropes course are just part of the benefits. With our camp located right next to the San Bernardino National Forest, students can gain a better appreciation for nature; made stronger by engaging in the day/night hike and wilderness survival courses.

There are several hiking trails nearby students and campers can follow with their instructor, but the most common one is an offshoot of the nearby fire road. Students don’t just learn from being out in nature, but actually learn about the things they’re passing along the way. After their initial climb, there’s a quick water break where students learn about two of the most common trees we have in and around camp: the manzanita and the Jeffrey pine.

The manzanita, seen here, is also called the “zombie tree” because of its special adaptation to the desert climate. Sections of its body die and the bark shrinks back in periods of low rainfall, but these are revitalized once the rain returns. Any hiker learns that while its name may come from the small fruit it produces, anyone eating them will get sick. The Jeffrey pine draws students in because of a chemical inside it that smells like butterscotch, but that chemical is actually toxic and quite flammable.

From there, the hike diverges to a narrow trail splitting off from the fire road. Along the way, there are many opportunities to see nature in action, like trees filled with acorns by woodpeckers, hoping to keep them from squirrels, or ivy taking over the oak tree above.

While hikers are looking down, making sure they don’t trip on roots or leave the path, the Coulter pines above hold a surprise. Coulter pine cones are HUGE, growing over a foot and weighing between four and ten pounds on average. The trail avoids the drop zone for these behemoths, which are nicknamed “widowmakers” for obvious reasons.

A common stopping point on the trail looks over to Lily Rock and also happens to be a great echo spot. It’s hard to demonstrate echoes in a classroom, so this is just one more unique experience to our hiking classes.

At the top, we’ve reached an overlook for all of May Valley. This is a great time to sit and just reflect on everything around you. During the night hikes, groups often have moments of silence up here to just reflect and look up at the stars. It’s one of the experiences students say had the biggest impact on them during their stay at camp.

Sadly, we can’t stay up the mountain all day. Once everyone’s had some time to rest, reflect, drink water, and maybe play some games with their instructors, it’s back down the trail to camp.

Building Character at Camp

Summer at AstroCamp means throwing out preexisting ideas of what people think of you and finding yourself instead. It is a place to build upon you as a person, while being surrounded by a network of positive and inspiring individuals.

AstroCamp prides itself in being a safe space for campers to be the people they want to be. It is a community based off of openness, respect, understanding, and acceptance. This summer is a great time to branch out, try new things, and ultimately take steps toward discovering your own voice, who you are, and who you want to be. Don’t hold yourself to a standard that is impossible to reach, or confine yourself in a box that society has tried to label. Create your own label…or don’t!

Don’t be afraid to be silly and goofy, or color your hair and paint your nails. Just because some people consider it “normal” doesn’t mean that you have to too. What is normal anyway? And why does someone else get to tell you what that means?! While at AstroCamp, learn about yourself by fueling your imagination, asking questions, and accepting those that are different from yourself.

Facing Your Fears

Going to camp for the first time can be nerve wracking for some kids; they’re in a new place, away from their family, and facing all new challenges. Luckily, there are ways to face these fears and come out of camp stronger and more confident than you went in.

The easiest way to become comfortable with a new place is familiarity; the more you get to know it, the less intimidating it becomes. The first step in that familiarity is the tour every camper takes, but it also just comes from spending time here at camp. A spot on camp may seem scary at first, but any fun activity taking place there begins to replace the fear associated with that location with a fond memory.

Homesickness is one of the most common issues students face on camp, and with good reason. For many campers, AstroCamp is their first overnight camp at all, and feeling separated from your normal support system can be really isolating and frightening. That’s where the counselors and other campers come into play, however. The counseling staff are there to help campers through the struggles of camp, and the cabin groups quickly form friendships that can last for years to come. They may start out feeling isolated, but it’s hard to stay isolated for long at camp.

The other big place campers deal with fear is on our ropes course, even those not normally afraid of heights. Our motto here is “Challenge by Choice,” meaning a camper only has to do what they feel comfortable with during a ropes course element. Often, instructors will have them set a goal before starting to climb, and then once they reach it will ask them if they’d like to push forward.

Often, taking that first step past what they thought they were able to do will embolden them to keep moving and complete the element, achieving something they thought was impossible for them. This experience teaches them how to face their fears and push themselves in a healthy way, an experience they will take from camp and be able to apply for the rest of their lives.

Don’t Miss This Summer Fun

Don’t miss all this fun Early Bird Incentive ENDS SOON!

Register your camper on or before December 24th, 2016 and save money with our Early Bird Incentive Program!
Incentive pricing indicated in RED!

AstroCamp Summer • One-Week Sessions

Coed Ages 8 – 13

One-Week Session 1:  June 10 – June 16        $1,300 (Before December 24th – $1,200)
One-Week Session 2:  June 17 – June 23        $1,400 (Before December 24th – $1,300)
One-Week Session 3:  June 24 – June 30        $1,400 (Before December 24th – $1,300)

Please Note: AstroCamp One-Week Sessions Run From Saturday To Friday!

NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of $200 is required to register. Register HERE.

AstroCamp Summer • Two-Week Sessions

Coed Ages 12 – 17

Two-Week Session 1:  July 2 – July 14        $2,400 (Before December 24th – $2,300)
Two-Week Session 2:  July 16 – July 28      $2,400 (Before December 24th – $2,300)

Please Note: AstroCamp Two-Week Sessions Run From Sunday To Friday!

A NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of $200 is required to register. Register HERE.

Applying and Registration 

All of our camp sessions fill up very quickly, so APPLY EARLY!

Click HERE to register now!

For additional information or questions, please contact us.
Phone: 800.645.1423 or 909.625.6194
Fax: 909.625.9977 or 909.625.7305
AstroCamp • 27282 Calle Arroyo • San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Email: AstroCamp Registrar
Office Hours M-F: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM (Lunch 12:30-1:00)


We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit for additional information. Happy Reading!