Youngsters wrapping their brains around engineering|[06/11/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Forty students from across the United States and from Korea are in Vicksburg for the sixth annual Society of American Military Engineers Army Engineering and Construction camp this week.

The camp, with most events at the Environmental Research and Development Center, is for rising juniors and seniors in high school who are interested in engineering and are on an academic career path that will allow them to pursue the career. The average grade point average of the students admitted to the camp is a 3.75 out of a 4.0.

“We’re interested in exposing kids to various forms of engineering so they can make an informed decision when it comes to choosing their careers,” said Henry Dulaney, vice president of S.A.M.E. and chairman of student administration and publicity. “We definitely want them to become engineers.”

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S.A.M.E. sponsors three camps nationwide: an Army Engineering and Construction Camp, an Air Force Engineering and Construction Camp and a Navy Engineering and Construction Camp. The purpose of the camps is to allow good prospects for engineering careers to see the work and workplaces of military engineers, Dulaney said. That allows them, in turn, to make informed career choices.

Also, students are divided into four teams for competitions. Each is given points based on problem-solving and performance ,with a winner to be announced at the end of the week. Activities for the week include a concrete exercise, river engineering, military engineering, a soil class and and environmental class, as well as numerous social activities.

“We concentrate on hands-on activities so they’ll get a good idea of engineering,” said Dulaney. “But it’s not all work. There’s fun involved as well. They will be having a swim party, a college-themed bowling night, military games that are similar to CBS’ ‘Survivor,’ and even a luau.”

“I really think this week will be beneficial to my future career,” said Mandy Cote, a senior at Warren Central High School attending the camp.

The camp is made possible by donations and by volunteers from around Vicksburg, including the Army Corps of Engineers, American engineer firms, Mississippi Valley Division, Vicksburg District, 168th Engineering Group and the Vicksburg Warren School District. Donations have made it possible to lower the camp price from $350 to $50 per student.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the local community,” Dulaney said. “Anybody we’ve asked for help has said yes.”

The camp will hold a graduation for the students on Saturday with Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division, as a guest speaker.