The University of San Diego’s Engineering Programs hosted 160 high school-age cadets from the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) for a national camp designed to enhance the students’ science and technology skills.
Loma Hall, the home for USD’s Engineering Programs, was bustling with activity through the camp, which ran from July 17-22. The young cadets took part in hands-on experiments using math, science and engineering technology concepts. On the third floor of the building, students were busy making “shoes” for a Walk on Water competition, similar to the community event hosted by USD each spring. The second floor was dedicated to those working on programming robots. The Loma Hall basement was turned into a catapult design center.
Rick Olson, PhD, associate professor of Industrial Engineering, is the academic coordinator for the camp. He said the enthusiasm and desire of the students to learn makes for a fun week.
“The kids are such sponges and they’re here because they want to be here,” said Olson (pictured, with campers). “They are the top people from their respective high schools and they are fun to teach because they are so appreciative.” He added that the students are not held back by the pressure to get a good grade, unlike many of the college freshman that do many of the same projects as the camp participants.
The camp is limited to 160 participants, but the admission process is highly selective. Olson said seven USD faculty members — five from the School of Business Administration’s Engineering Programs and two from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Computer Science — were on hand to assist with the camp.
The summer program is designed to promote the students’ interest in post-secondary education, especially in technical subjects, while enabling them to spend time in a college environment and learn scientific skills. Many campers said being on USD’s campus exposed them to what they can look forward to in college, and some said they have applied or are now considering applying to USD.
In addition to the academic rigor involved, another highlight is the opportunity to meet other high school-aged students from around the country. Following a day of academics, campers were treated to recreation activities such as beach volleyball.
One project involved building a robot and programming it to go around a track using light sensors. “The best part of this camp has been doing stuff I didn’t know I could do before,” said David Jimenez, a robot builder from Lakewood, Calif.
One team of high school senior robot builders — Patrick Garrity (New York), Natalie Jimenez and Alyssa Hicks (Florida) and M.J. Laipenieks (Rancho Penasquitos, Calif.)— said they gained a lot from their participation in the camp, even helping them decide on their college future plans.
“I’m going to major in electrical engineering in college,” Garrity said. “I’ll do internships while I am in school and eventually I will work in technology. Maybe someday I’ll design something completely new.”
Jimenez and Hicks were proud to say that they’d built the robot as their contribution to the project. The experience these two young women gained through this exercise does not go unnoticed. Olson asserted that the camp continues the engineering program’s commitment to host programs that expose students, specifically female and underrepresented groups, to the potential of majoring in engineering in college and, eventually, as a career.
— Ellie Faulkner ’11