High School Students See Engineering with Robots, Hybrid Cars and Wax Carvings at A&M-Kingsville YESTexas Summer Camp Kingsville
KINGSVILLE - July 13, 2009
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It’s one thing to read about what you can do with an engineering degree. It’s another to actually do those jobs—building bridges, powering a hybrid car, measuring pollution in rivers, manufacturing via computer modeling programs. That’s what the Young Engineers of South Texas Summer Camp—better known as YESTexas—allows area high school students the chance to do.
Funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering—the host of the event—YESTexas Summer Camp divided its student participants into teams that learned engineering-related ideas and skills through projects and technical activities developed by faculty in the College of Engineering, in collaboration with faculty from the department of chemistry.
The team projects were bridge building; understanding computer technology; the causes and results of river pollution; and using computer-controlled manufacturing technology. The technical activities included taking air pollutant measurements; building and operating a miniature hybrid car; programming robots to work separately and together; and measuring the density, gravity and viscosity of liquids.
During four of the camp’s five days, each team will learn a new technical activity and project. On the final day, the teams showed off what they learned in a poster presentation, took a field trip to Gulf Coast Plains in Falfurrias, learned about attending Texas A&M-Kingsville and attended a team award service. Team awards were given for performance, creativeness and congeniality.
This year’s YESTexas Summer Camp had high school students attending from the towns of Bishop, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, McAllen, Orange Grove and Robstown. The goals of the camp were to expose students to math, science and engineering concepts through a set of hands-on engineering projects and technical activities, to help achieve improved demographic balance in engineering programs in Texas, and to expose the students to technology.
Shriram Sukumaran, a lecturer in mechanical and industrial engineering, was one of the A&M-Kingsville faculty teaching the high school campers. Sukumaran was involved in the project dealing with computer-controlled manufacturing technology, named “Wax-O-Mania.” Campers used the design program AutoCAD to make a precise image, which was then drawn onto a block of wax via a computer-guided machine used in parts manufacturing. From Sukumaran’s perspective, this year’s campers were strong choices for carrying out camp goals.
“The students have been bright, picking up the crux of things quickly. With ‘Wax-O-Mania,’ they’ve shown an eagerness to do something different. Some of their ideas have been pretty amazing—from hot air balloons, to writing the name of their team in Mandarin characters.”
Mary Ann Saenz, a counselor with San Pedro Elementary School in Robstown, served as a judge for YESTexas while attending her own A&M-Kingsville summer engineering program, Research Experience for Teachers. Saenz’s daughter Marietta also was a YESTexas camper.
“This is an awesome, intense experience for the kids. They’re doing a lot of high level thinking,” said Saenz. “They were put into groups of four, with a chaperone. There’s a big variation in the ages of the high school kids, with freshmen working with seniors, but the faculty are great people and are very well prepared. As a result, from day one to the end of camp, I’ve seen the teams grow and mature.”
YESTexas camper Drew Datka, a freshman at Bishop High School, said, “I wasn't too sure what to expect when I was planning on going to the camp. It more then surpassed my expectations about how well things would go and what would happen.
“Prior to going to this camp, I had all but decided that I wanted to be an engineer of some sort. The camp confirmed that, and now I feel like the computer science/electrical engineering side would be the field of study that I would most enjoy.”
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