Engineering Summer Camps swing into action

7/7/2009 - By: John Trent

It’s that time of year again. School is out and northern Nevada’s brightest young minds are looking for ways to keep their learning fun, yet interesting.

The College of Engineering has the perfect activity for such students.

The college’s ultra-successful Engineering Summer Camps began last month and run through July 31. From building “mini-concrete canoes” that compete on the sparkling waters of the fountain outside Getchell Library on the University of Nevada, Reno campus to tours of the vast array of minerals housed in the Keck Museum in the Mackay School of Mines Building to gaining insight through the instruction of civil engineering professors on the inner workings of the typical traffic signal, the experience is both hands-on and memorable.

According to Debbie DeLauer, K-12 outreach coordinator for the College of Engineering, the camps usually help spark an even greater interest for students interested in one day studying engineering or one of its many aspects.

“If we can catch the students early, hopefully they’ll remember the experience and they’ll be back to consider a major in one of our nine engineering programs,” said DeLauer.

“The Engineering Summer Camps are one of our great success stories,” added Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering. “They show young people that engineering is not only a challenging and important field, it can be a lot of fun to study.”

There are two camps. The Introduction to Engineering Camps, designed for students 12 to 14, were held on June 22-26, and again on July 13-17 and July 27-31. Activities for the 12- to 14-year-old campers involve faculty and staff from Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Camps, designed for students ages 14 to 17, are being held on July 6-10 and July 20-24. Activities are focused on three areas: earthquake, environmental and geotechnical.

The five sections of the two camps have an enrollment of about 25 and usually fill well before the K-12 school year is out, DeLauer said. The camps offer the students a week-long opportunity to interact and learn from some of the college’s finest professors. Many of the engineering professors have active research agendas with grant funding that includes a K-12 educational outreach component, which helps unite efforts and provides for a richer learning experience for the students.

The camps also encourage and actively seek students from all backgrounds. Students from all Washoe County public, private and charter schools are encouraged to attend, and a vast array of donors offer financial aid and scholarships for students with an aptitude for math and science. Partners for the camps include community organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, and the Reno Housing Authority. On-campus partners include the Dean’s Future Scholars program in the College of Education – a program that encourages low-income students to attend college and become teachers.

The camps have also made strong inroads in encouraging girls’ interest in mathematics, science and engineering. National studies have shown that girls often lack such encouragement in middle school and high school and drift away from such subjects. In March, the camps received the news that the EWB Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada will be providing a $5,000 scholarship. The scholarship is being used to enroll more girls in the camp.

Kevin Chen, a Presidential Scholarship recipient who recently graduated from McQueen High School and was part of the highly successful Dean’s Future Scholars program on campus, will be attending the University as a freshman in the fall. Chen said his experience participating in the Summer Camps has been a highlight of his summer.

“It was a really fun way to learn about engineering, and what engineers do,” said Chen, who spent the last two summers working with the middle school students who were enrolled in the camp. “At that age, it’s one of the happiest and most fun times of your life, and there is a lot of learning going on. It’s a great introduction to not only engineering, but to the campus and what it has to offer.”

Added DeLauer: “The camps help give the students a glimpse into their potential future as college students, and also gives them access to support that will help make their entry into our engineering programs a success.”

The camps are held in the Harry Reid Engineering Laboratory on the University campus, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration fee is $250. Scholarships and financial assistance are available.

For more information, view the Engineering Summer Camps page.


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