August 24, 2011

LSU College of Engineering (CoE) hosted its seventh annual summer camps for middle school students, Project N’Jneer and Jr. Project N’Jneer, in July as part of LSU Continuing Education’s Tiger Challenge camps. This year, nearly 80 students participated from grades 5-8 representing six Louisiana parishes and three other states.

Anna Haldane, a teacher in at Gonzales Middle School in Ascension Parish and Summer Dann, STEP (STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - Talent Expansion Program) program manager, CoE, developed camp activities to educate middle school students about the different types of engineers and provide campers with opportunities to develop skills in analysis, evaluation and design.

“It was so exciting to teach a topic that might seem out of the child\'s realm of understanding and see their faces when they get it!” said Haldane.

Engineering education research shows that if students are exposed to engineering in middle school, they are more likely to take high school math and science classes needed for the college engineering curriculum and choose a STEM career.  

Campers were divided into “engineering firms” that developed a logo identifying their team and used the math and science skills they learned throughout the camp to build a bridge all while maintaining a project budget. Campers also learned about simple machines, circuits and polymers.

Other activities included deconstructing various household appliances and reconstructing the parts into another item, building a motorized robot, and designing a box for potato chips to be mailed through the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Throughout the camp, students met with CoE representatives from different engineering disciplines.  Graduate students from LSU’s departments of Construction Management and Industrial Engineering (CMIE) and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) explained how to design towers and structures to minimize damage from hurricanes.

Campers visited a biological engineering lab to learn about bone regeneration and ligament reconstruction. Jr. Project N’Jneer campers visited a mechanical engineering lab to discover impact energy and jet engines, while older campers visited the CoE’s new driving simulator, which LSU CEE researchers and students use to design better roadways and study driver behavior.

Campers were treated to a special demonstration when John Papizan, a grandparent of one of the campers and a retired engineer, revealed his homemade bottle rocket using compressed air to shoot a 2-liter bottle several feet into the air.

In October 2010, the LSU College of Engineering announced a strategic plan. For the 2011 camp, approximately 25 percent of the participants were females attending the fifth and sixth grader camp; and overall, 15 percent of the campers were African American, Asian or of Middle Eastern descent.

The success of these camps is directly related to strategy three, increasing student recruitment and diversity, and strategy six, improving the college’s visibility locally, nationally and globally.

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For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.



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