Texas A&M University-Kingsville

New Summer Camp at A&M-Kingsville Gets Students Excited About Engineering

KINGSVILLE - June 16, 2008

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

YESTexas lays groundwork to address state’s acute shortage of engineers

The demand for engineers in Texas is growing, but the supply of new engineers is not.

Like almost all engineering colleges in Texas, the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville has room for more students—about 300 more specifically.

To ultimately help fill some of those seats, the Dotterweich College of Engineering hosts its first-ever Young Engineers of South Texas (YESTexas) Summer Camp this week (June 16-20). It is an innovate day camp for 31 area high school students to learn math, science and engineering concepts through creative, unusual projects and functional technical activities designed by A&M-Kingsville engineering, chemistry and mathematics faculty.

Students will learn civil engineering by building a balsa wood bridge that can stand up to the stresses a real bridge would face. Instead of just using a computer, students will actually put one together that can transfer images and songs wirelessly. A lesson in environmental engineering will come from using a small-scale river simulator and learning how pollutants move through it. Finally, students will be taught computer controlled manufacturing firsthand by using a design program to precisely cut blocks of wax.

In addition, camp participants will learn technical activities like how to measure air pollutants, how to generate nanoparticles of silver and the process for desalinating water.

“With this camp, we want to spark that interest in engineering with high school students, and show them what they can do with an engineering degree,” said Sheryl Custer, executive assistant to the dean in the Dotterweich College of Engineering.

“Our main goal is to get high school students interested in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, so they can begin taking college preparatory courses before their senior year.”

The camp was born from the Texas Legislature’s House Bill 2978, which appropriated $1 million for scholarships and summer camps on college and university campuses aimed at increasing recruitment and retention of students in higher education engineering programs. A&M-Kingsville is among 11 Texas colleges and universities that received funding for camps this year.

It was legislature motivated in part by a growing pool of data showing a statewide—and nationwide—deficiency in engineers.

A state-funded study by economic and financial analysis firm The Perryman Group ranked Texas ninth out of the 10 most populous states for awarding science/engineering degrees. The same study reported hundreds of thousands of new engineering and computer science jobs coming to Texas in the next few years, but the rate of technical degrees being awarded has stayed flat for the last 10 years.

Reasons for the engineer shortage can be found in a 2006 study by high school testing organization ACT, conducted with its students to record their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The results showed that only 4.9 percent were interested in majoring in engineering and 2.9 percent were interested in majoring in computer and information science. In addition, fewer than half of ACT-tested 2005 high school graduates achieved or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math, and only a quarter achieved it in science.

For the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering, YESTexas is just the latest effort to show high school students both fun and the practical applications of engineering.

Each spring, the college hosts Engineering Day, in which students apply STEM principles to a series of competitions that include keeping kites afloat and protecting eggs from a 16-foot drop. For the last two fall semesters, the college hosted the Coastal Bend BEST Robotics and Science Competition, which provides students with kits to build robots and compete with each other on their creations’ capabilities.

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