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New camps promote hands-on learning for future engineers

STARS campers worked in teams to build radio controlled cars, then raced them through an obstacle course.STARS campers worked in teams to build radio controlled cars, then raced them through an obstacle course.

Seventy high school students from across the Buckeye state and beyond gained a hands-on introduction to engineering disciplines and careers during two six-day summer camps offered by The Ohio State University College of Engineering in June.

The camps are part of the college’s efforts to boost diversity in engineering. According to the National Science Foundation, despite comprising 30 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans and Hispanics represent only 11 percent of those working in the science and engineering fields. And while women make up half of the workforce, they held just 14.5 percent of engineering jobs in 2015.

“We’re problem solvers in engineering and having a diverse pool of engineers makes the solutions more holistic,” said Lisa Barclay, senior director of the college’s Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion.

Campers enjoyed hands-on science and engineering activities, including DIY High schoolers built speakers out of cardboard, wire and magnets.High schoolers built speakers out of cardboard, wire and speakers, RC car building at the Center for Automotive Research, using medical devices like an ultrasound, and fabricating an egg protection device using the engineering planning and design process. They also experienced an “electric” demonstration at the High Voltage Laboratory and toured the Spine Research Institute, which focuses on preventing, evaluating and treating musculoskeletal disorders.

For many participants, the experience confirmed their decision to pursue engineering in college.

“I learned about all the different types of engineering and all the degrees that Ohio State offers,” said Marshaw, a STARS participant from Toledo. “I’m acquiring a whole lot of knowledge and information about all these different facets so I can better choose what I want to do when I graduate.”

While both camps hosted rising high school juniors and seniors, STARS (Students Taking Advantage of Resources in STEM), held June 11-16, targeted those from underrepresented populations and RISE (Respected Involved Skilled and Empowered) hosted women campers, June 18-23.

One of the toughest, yet most rewarding parts of this year’s camps was a weeklong team programming exercise, participants said. It challenged students to program Sparki miniature robots for various aspects, including navigation, obstacle avoidance, sensors and displays.

Students work in teams to program Sparki miniature robotsStudents work in teams to program Sparki miniature robots“Sparki is definitely the most hands-on, problem-solving activity that we’re doing here because there’s so many new things to learn and there’s a lot of different nuances that you become more familiar with as you work with the program,” said RISE participant Madelyn, from Mason, Ohio. “It’s also really great for team-building and leadership skills.”

Learning more about the research activities of the Buckeye engineering faculty and students who led the activities and lectures was another favorite.

“The professors make you feel as if you’re in the class already,” explained Madelyn. “They get to show you a little bit about what they do and how they think this is important. Their passion in their different fields of study is really clear.”

“Talking to the graduate students and the PhD students about their research helped so much,” added Avery from Grove City. “I was like, I want to be able to do that. I want to have a project!”

Students and their parents also learned about preparing for college applications, as well as financial aid and scholarships.

“These programs, and similar ones offered in the past, increase student career awareness and support the college’s efforts to increase enrollment and graduation of diverse students,” Barclay said.

Ohio State ranks in the top 20 schools nationwide in the number of women and African American engineering graduates out of 366 U.S. doctorate-granting institutions, according to 2016 data from the American Society for Engineering Education.

The RISE and STARS programs were sponsored by the GM Foundation, with additional support from Delphi Automotive.

Tags: Outreach