Camp captures fun of engineering

·4 min read

Jul. 22—Youngsters attending University of Texas Permian Basin's Engineering Camp are figuring out what form of the discipline they like best by getting some hands-on experience.

Funded by the UTPB College of Engineering and XTO Energy, the camp is for middle and high school students. Middle school students are attending this week and it will be the high school student's turn next week. All together, 74 children are expected to attend.

Mesut Yurukcu, this year's camp coordinator, said these could be future engineering students. Currently, they are getting a glimpse of petroleum, chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering.

Students work directly with professors and student workers help out.

At the end of the program, Yurukcu said students will be asked what type of engineering fits them best.

"... I think the camp is a really fun place. We got to learn a lot of things and meet a bunch of new people. And I also learned a lot of new things from the camp, honestly," 10-year-old David Nnanna said.

Nnanna, who will be going into sixth grade, said his father, George, is the dean of the College of Engineering.

Ubadire Onyemaobi, a student worker said the experience has been great so far.

"The kids are really smart for their age ...," Onyemaobi said.

The students also communicate and socialize well.

"I'm impressed because when I was their age I wasn't too smart, so I'm pretty sure we are going to have better engineers," Onyemaobi said.

Mathew Ortega, an 11 year old going into sixth grade, said he wanted to sign up for the camp because he's gotten to learn so much.

"All the science and math stuff. I get to learn new things so that means I'll be ahead and then ... I'll know everything I'll need to know," Ortega said.

Assistant Professor Omar Beg said he had about 20 students in his lab Wednesday.

Beg taught a robotics class in the last camp, which was virtual.

"So, today we are going to conduct a new subject, which is about electrical circuits. We are teaching the students and we have designed an experiment for the students on electrical circuits," Beg said.

He added that the students were actively participating and he saw some future engineers in the group.

"Due to their interest, I am very confident that they will be joining us in coming years," Beg said.

He added that it's important to get youngsters interested in engineering at a young age.

"... They are building their bases right now, so it is very important for them to understand what options they have for their future. By joining the summer camps, these options are exposed to them, so accordingly ... they can decide, in consultation with their parents and their interest as well ...," Beg said.

Benjamin Wills, a 13-year-old going into eighth grade, said this was the first time he had attended engineering camp.

"I think it's pretty interesting," said Wills, who turns 14 in October.

Asked what surprised him, Wills said, "We definitely had this chemical reaction in a smaller bottle that had carbon dioxide expanding from pressure and the cap came up and it pretty much flew," he said.

He said his father is a petroleum engineer, so the field is something he may want to pursue.

Cooper Dighans, an 11-year-old going into sixth grade, said he wants to be an engineer when he grows up, "because I love math and science and I guess it just suits me."

Jurian Smith is 12 and going into eighth grade. He is enjoying himself so far.

"I thought I could learn a bunch of new things such as Ohm's law and understand more about chemical reactions," Smith said.

"I was surprised that we would be messing and touching the stuff and making miniature rockets and stuff," Smith added.

Yurukcu said many of the camper's parents are engineers, but the camp will give them some idea of what each discipline is about.

Olivia Lee, 13, who is going into eighth grade, said she thought the camp was fun and she has learned a lot.

"I wanted to become a chemical engineer and I thought this camp would be exciting," Lee said.

She said nuclear engineering is also interesting to her.

George Nnanna, the engineering dean, said the XTO projects started a couple of days ago.

"We are actively involved with experiential learning opportunities for both middle school, as well as our high school. This year, we have about 74 students that are participating. The goal is to expose them to every facet of engineering — from chemical, electrical, petroleum and mechanical. So hopefully they will register here and become engineers, and in turn, provide the workforce that is needed for this region. So it's an excellent opportunity for the region, as well as for the university," Nnanna said.

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