Camp shows kids ins and outs of engineering

Middle school students from around the Permian Basin got some hands-on experience with the different types of engineering this week during the University of Texas Permian Basin’s Engineering Summer Camp being held at the CEED Building.

Dean of the College of Engineering George Nnanna said they will learn about chemical, mechanical, petroleum and electrical engineering by building electrical circuits, building mini wind turbines, learning about AutoCAD design and other activities and experiments.

A high school edition of the camp is set for next week.

Thirty students are taking part this round, but Nnanna said there was a waiting list they couldn’t accommodate due to lack of manpower. Most of the students came from Odessa and Midland, but there were some from the region, as well.

“We have three (student) mentors and one mentor from XTO Energy and we have five professors. The mentors are engineering students, so part of the goal is for them to see students that are studying engineering to give them an idea and also be able to ask questions,” Nnanna said.

The youngsters exposed to UTPB professors, engineering students and performing experiments has worked well, Nnanna said.

 “Our key goal is to expose them to chemical engineering, electrical, mechanical, as well as petroleum engineering. It’s going great. Periodically, I talk to the students. They really like it, so we are glad. This is the first time we are doing it and the feedback we are getting so far is that they’re really (enjoying) it,” he added.

An awards ceremony will be held Friday where students will receive a certificate of completion.

“This can be a launching pad for them if they decide to apply to engineering schools. The fact that they have attended this program will give them hopefully a competitive advantage …,” Nnanna said.

Julie Moseley, Kainen Leon and Nnenne Nnanna are all enjoying themselves because it’s interesting, fun and different.

“I like it because it teaches you how to use real-world problems to your benefit,” said Leon, a 13-year-old who will be going into eighth grade at Abell Junior High School in Midland.

“And you can save a lot of money with the stuff we’ve learned,” said Moseley, an 11-year-old who will be going into sixth grade at Montessori Mastery School of Odessa.

Nnenne, 12, is George Nnanna’s daughter and will be going into eighth grade at Abell Junior High.

“It’s like a new experience,” Nnenne Nnanna said. “You get to see things that you wouldn’t be able to see at … school …”

The three said they decided to sign up because they like engineering and they like to take things apart and put them back together again. Moseley likes to do that with computers.

“Or I get Legos. I build them; I take them apart; build it again; and see how fast I can do it,” Moseley said.

Nnenne Nnanna said she likes building and designing things. She takes blocks and uses her imagination to create a car, for example.

Leon was looking to the future, but he also likes seeing what’s inside things and putting them back together again.

“I wanted to start a better degree in college. I already started looking at stuff like that,” Leon said.

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Luis Trueba is running the camp.

“The camp has been a very exciting and fun opportunity for the kids to learn about engineering and different disciplines of engineering. We’re excited because we’ve got a wonderful group of students to work with, so they’ve been a lot of fun,” Trueba said. “… I think several of them could be future students at UTPB, and specifically in engineering without a doubt. And if not here, somewhere in Texas. We’d love them all to come to UTPB for sure.”

Toluwalase Agbesoyin, who will be a junior next fall studying mechanical engineering at UTPB, is one of the student mentors.

She added that a lot of the students are very inquisitive about engineering and she enjoys being able to help them learn more about it.

“I was really interested in something like that. It’s been really fun so far. I’ve helped them build wind turbines and work in teams and showing them how things like that work and seeing their excitement has been really fun,” Agbesoyin said.