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OU Summer Program Introduces High School Students to Engineering

OU Summer Program Introduces High School Students to Engineering

Two students construct a bridge from popsicle sticks

At a summer camp at the University of Oklahoma, high school juniors and seniors learned how to create a Styrofoam support beam, build a Popsicle stick bridge and code a LabView robot.

They learned these engineering marvels and more during OU Engineering Days sponsored by Boeing, a day camp where students experience different engineering fields on the Norman campus. About 90 students from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas took part in the June event.

Engineering Days provides rising juniors and seniors with a glimpse into college-level concepts in the diverse field of engineering. The classes are taught by faculty who bring real-world expertise into the classroom, says Dalton Brasington who oversees outreach and recruitment for the OU Gallogly College of Engineering.

“Engineering Days exposes high school juniors and seniors to the wide world of engineering through exciting projects and dynamic learning environments. Each camp day focuses on a different discipline,” Brasington said.

Three students pace a small robotic vehicle on a wooden track

High school students often are not exposed to engineering in a traditional classroom environment, Brasington says. “This lack of exposure is why Engineering Days were created – to offer accessible and affordable experiences to young people,” he said.

Ten faculty, along with 20 OU students, taught at this year’s event. They guided the youth through hands-on explorations of engineering and science concepts. For instance, engineering physics faculty introduced students to advanced topics in magnetism and optics. Youth also toured a world-leading research lab. On another day, students built a miniature solar car in the morning and repurposed it to a hydrogen car in the afternoon.

“For the high school students, experiencing two different ways to power a vehicle with renewable energy was important because this new generation of engineers will need to prioritize sustainable transportation,” Brasington said.

Another OU program works in sync with Engineering Days by helping educators explore new approaches to integrating engineering into their science and math instruction.

Thomas Grzybowski, a math teacher at Mustang (Oklahoma) High School, says he will take what he learned at Engineering Days and incorporate the projects and activities into his classroom.

“I liked how we discussed what, where and why we would do these activities in real life,” Grzybowski said. “For computer science, I now can have students use geometric properties, code properties in Minecraft or make a route for a drone to take.”

The program focus, however, continues to be on high school students.

Students build a prototype out of foam

"Engineering Days definitely showed me what I may be doing as an engineer and made it seem less daunting and more feasible,” said Kaegan Reynolds, an Aubrey (Texas) High School student.

Norman (Oklahoma) North High School student Cristiana Eagen agrees and added, "I enjoyed meeting new people, learning about specific engineering fields and working on different projects."

Chad Kim, a Westmoore High School student in Oklahoma City, says he was interested in the field of engineering before attending the day camp, but wasn’t sure what type of engineering to study after he graduates.

“Engineering was already a passion of mine. Engineering Days only solidified that fact,” Kim said.

As for Kim's favorite activity at the day camp? The Styrofoam support beam without a doubt. And what else did he like? “Everything! From the lectures to the activities – and especially the food.”

This article was originally published by Gallogly College of Engineering.

Article Published:  Wednesday, July 14, 2021