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High school students experience CCEE concepts firsthand through camp

Campers constructed towers in the Student Projects Lab.

Constructing a small-scale wooden tower, estimating water flow velocity while standing in a stream, figuring out how to build a water purifier from scratch using the most cost-effective materials possible — these were just a few hands-on activities 24 campers experienced through CCEE’s weeklong summer camp workshop conducted in partnership with NC State’s College of Engineering. 

Every summer, the college gives rising 11th and 12th grade high school students the opportunity to experience engineering and get a glimpse of college life through camp while staying on NC State’s campus. The CCEE workshop, which took place on June 26 to July 1, allowed campers to get a closer look at what the fields of civil, construction, and environmental engineering entail and the diverse nature of building a more sustainable society.

CCEE professor Steve Welton and assistant professor Dr. Jonathan Miller organized the workshop, and CCEE students Isaiah Coleman and Zoey Smith served as camp counselors. This year’s campers were from across the world, coming from as far as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to as close as Raleigh. 

“We try to expose them to different things and show them the diversity in civil engineering,” Welton said. “We introduce them to the different kinds of problems they might be involved in solving.”

Campers measured water flow in a nearby creek.

As part of the workshop, campers participated in several CCEE-related activities, such as designing, planning and constructing mini wooden towers to test lateral loads in Fitts-Woolard Hall’s Student Project Lab; computer modeling a cost-effective bridge that would bear the weight of a truck; creating and experimenting with water filtration systems; measuring water flow in a nearby creek; visiting the Constructed Facilities Lab to watch large-scale testing; and exploring campus.  Raleigh-based engineering firm Vhb hosted the students at its on-campus office for a site-planning activity that allowed campers to get a feel for real-world engineering planning using Legos and printed site maps. 

“​​The workshop really showed the amount of opportunities there are within civil, construction, and environmental engineering degrees,” Coleman said. “Not many schools have all three disciplines wrapped into one department. It’s great because they overlap so much. We were able to show the plethora of options available to CCEE students.”

Campers got a hands-on look at site planning with an interactive activity.

Smith said the CCEE portion of camp is really valuable for students because they are able to “participate in activities and real-world applications related to their possible careers before they get to college and have to pick a major.”

“We were able to show structures, site development, water resources, bridge design, streams, transportation and more. It can also inspire ideas or a new direction of civil, construction, and environmental engineering that they didn’t know existed. They learn lessons about technical skills like sustainability, building, structures and water quality at a low level but in a way that exposes them to new things. They can also learn all that CCEE encompasses and the differences between disciplines.” 

Coleman said a highlight of the week was when the campers built and stress-tested their towers. 

At the end of the week, campers tested lateral loads on their wooden towers.

“I looked around, and everyone had a smile on their face, and they were taking pictures on their phones of the towers. They got a real college experience throughout the week, and their hard work paid off. I really enjoyed that they still had so much engagement at the end of the week, and I could see that the students really enjoyed it.”

“It’s really neat getting to know the campers,” Welton said. “I’ve had campers that I’ve later had as students in class. I’ve even had a camper who was in class who became a counselor — Zoe Smith. That is pretty special.”

Former camper-turned-counselor Smith said attending the camp inspired her to pursue studying civil engineering at NC State and “what kind of things I wanted to contribute to the world.”

“I wanted to be a counselor because of how much the camp did for me when I was in high school,” she said. “I was a camper in the civil workshop as a rising senior in high school in 2019 and loved learning about engineering and CCEE and being able to meet others who enjoyed the same things as me. I really enjoyed learning from Mr. Welton at camp and later at NC State in a statistics class. I wanted to help expose campers to CCEE and engineering in a fun and informative way.”