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High school students explore engineering disciplines through CCEE summer camp

Though many CCEE students take a break from traditional learning during the summer, Fitts-Woolard Hall’s classrooms and labs were bustling with activities in June, welcoming 24 campers to experience life on campus and explore different engineering fields. Every summer, through CCEE’s weeklong summer camp workshop conducted in partnership with NC State’s College of Engineering, 11th and 12th grade high school students participate in engineering activities such as constructing small-scale wooden towers, figuring out how to build a water purifier using basic soil components, and optimizing structures with computer simulations. 

The CCEE workshop, which took place during the last week of June, allowed campers to get a closer look at what the fields of civil, construction, and environmental engineering entail and the “multitude of ways that these skills are woven into the things used everyday,” said Teaching Professor Steve Welton, who organized the camp. 

“Activities were provided for the campers to learn, interact, and gain an appreciation of how some of these systems perform,” Welton added.

CCEE graduate students Taylor Brodbeck and Hunter Bowman and undergraduate student Anthony Rurka served as camp counselors. Bowman said one of the main focuses of the camp was showcasing the broad selection of disciplines within the department. 

“We were able to have plenty of activities showcasing ideas from civil, construction and environmental engineering,” Bowman said. “The value of the camp is figuring out, through these activities, what might interest them for a major or a career before they make the leap to freshman year at university. The lessons learned as a camper would include a variety of different things, like gaining perspective on what engineering actually entails, what challenges an engineer faces, and how to communicate these challenges effectively. Through this, the goal is that they are better prepared for their future at college by learning what motivates them, and what challenges they see themselves overcoming in their education and careers.”

Students also toured Fitts-Woolard Hall, exploring lab spaces and classrooms, and the Constructed Facilities Lab, where they got to see large-scale testing. The campers had the opportunity to work in the Student Projects Lab, the Hydraulics Teaching Lab and the computer lab. Civil engineering company VHB also hosted campers at its Centennial Campus location and demonstrated the ways civil engineering graduates work together on projects to make sure all the aspects of design and planning are integrated to complete a project.  

“The highlight of the week was the testing of the wooden towers on Thursday,” Welton said. “Campers placed sand in a container that resulted in a lateral load being applied at the top of the towers that they had worked on throughout the week. The failure of the towers once they reached the capacity of critical members resulted in a dramatic conclusion.”

“Another highlight would be the topographical sand table that was able to display, in real time, contour lines and water levels as the campers moved and rearranged the sand,” Bowman said. “The best part about each of these was how much the campers were able to learn from these activities, giving just a small glimpse at what they could learn in the future.”