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Engineering Camp sparks interest in STEM careers

August 10, 2017

Thirteen-year-old Lauren Gerber and her teammates scaled two flights of stairs to a balcony adjoining the Givens Performing Arts Center.

Lauren exuded confidence.

Participants at Engineering Camp at UNCPShe trusted her team’s design of a contraption made to protect an egg would remain intact after being tossed off the two-story ledge.

The homemade box pounded the concrete, causing a loud thud. Campers below scrambled to open the box, eager to see if the egg survived.

Not a scratch.

The feat notched another win for Lauren’s team during Engineering Camp Pembroke at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The camp ran from July 24 – August 4 and was among several camps held at UNCP this summer.

“I loved all the activities, but the egg drop was my favorite,” said Gerber, who attends Prospect School.

She proudly revealed the winning design, which also survived a toss from the Mary Livermore Library.

“We placed the egg inside a zip lock bag and placed the bag into a cardboard box,” she said. “We cut out a hole in a pool noodle, big enough for the egg to fit inside then stuffed the box with napkins and more pieces from the pool noodle. I cut more pieces of the pool noodle and taped it to the outsider corners of the box.”

This type of ingenuity are examples of skills participants tapped into during the camp. UNC Pembroke partnered with the N.C. State College of Engineering and the Engineering Place to offer a week-long experience for elementary and middle school students.

Mary Beth Locklear, director of the Office for Regional Initiatives which sponsored the camp, served as one of the lead teachers.

“To see the discovery and excitement on the kids’ faces this week has been empowering,” Locklear said.

“The participants will leave this camp with a broader imagination and creative problem solving skills. They will be able to look at the world in a different way and hopefully make it a better place for their communities.”

Forty-two students participated in Engineering Camp Pembroke. They were introduced to various fields of engineering, from structural to mechanical. 

“Engineering Camp Pembroke is a tremendous opportunity for area elementary and middle school students to learn more about science and engineering, and engage in some really cool projects along the way,” said Jeff Frederick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

UNCP currently offers a 3-plus-2 dual degree engineering program with N.C. State University. Laura Bottomley, director of the Engineering Place and Women in Engineering, made the trip to Pembroke and sat in on the elementary sessions.  

"As part of our expanded STEM offerings and engineering partnership programs with NC State, UNCP is a place where science comes alive for students of all ages,” Frederick said.  

Eleven-year-old Rylan Oxendine is an aspiring engineer. He wants to design prosthetics for military veterans who return home with injuries. He enjoyed the bungee cord challenge and fabricating a chair using only newspaper and masking tape.

“This camp has taught me a lot,” Oxendine said. “The excitement that you get from designing something with your team … it’s awesome!”

Participants at Engineering Camp at UNCPOther activities included building a nano bug maze to simulate a dog park and designing shoes fit for walking upstairs and jumping.

Chavonda Brown, another lead teacher, said the goal was to spark the students’ interest in various types of engineering fields.

“We focused a lot on design,” she said. “We emphasized that before they could get their materials they must show us their design.”

Bladdon Hammonds, 12, lives on a farm near Prospect and has dreams of becoming a veterinarian. But after a week at Engineering Camp Pembroke, he is on the fence.

“I might change my mind,” he said. “I like the teachers here. They let us work in groups and we got to talk a lot with the ones on our team. It’s been a lot of fun.”