My older son, Joshua, is a high school senior, and — without any pushing from me — has decided that he wants to pursue either biomedical engineering or robotic engineering. It’s been an interesting experience looking at colleges here at home and far away, everything from Case Western Reserve University to Georgia Tech, and Lawrence Technological University to the University of New Mexico. But so far, the best investment of our time was a more immersive experience — a summer engineering camp.
A former colleague of mine turned me onto the idea of engineering summer camps, something I’d never even heard of. After some detailed comparing online, I enrolled Josh in one administered by Michigan State University in East Lansing. The five-day program was an overnight one, so attendees lived in the dorms, ate campus cafeteria food, and had roommates. I felt that big college experience would be a good thing for my son, to gauge how he liked it (he did, very much).
What I really liked about this camp was that it also gave in-depth insight into a variety of engineering disciplines. They covered mechanical engineering, as well as materials engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, and more. The kids spent a week in thorough lecture, lab and design sessions run by faculty and student assistants from the various engineering programs.
At the end of the camp, parents were invited to a closing ceremony, where all the kids had paired up and presented a poster session, describing what they’d learned about one particular area of interest. I was blown away by their professionalism and passion.
I was also pleased to see a lot of young women participating, a much different experience from when I’d been in school. One of the three MSU student leaders was a female, and fully 13 out of the 44 camp members were. The one camp participant who was selected for a $1,500 MSU “best in class” engineering scholarship was a young lady.
All in all, the camp helped Josh narrow his engineering focus a bit — and showed him more of what the college experience could be. If you have a high school student interested in engineering, I highly recommend a camp; there are a variety of them at colleges large and small, and they range from a few days to a couple of weeks, with both day and overnight options offered.