Can a one-week summer engineering camp experience be "life changing?"
High school students with industry aspirations who've attended any of three camps sponsored by the Society of American Military Engineering (SAME) at U.S. service academy sites for the last 15 years seem to think so.
They've said as much in Facebook posts, in letters to camp mentors and, OMG ... they're even telling their parents!
One student kept his parents up until 3am telling "nonstop" stories about his summer experience, according to a SAME camp Facebook page blog. Another is ready to "come back and help when I'm older."
According to Tetra Tech executive and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Prosuch, who has overseen the SAME camp program for a number of years and is currently director of the US Air Force Academy site in Colorado Springs, Colo., participants are immersed in engineering and construction from morning until “well past dark with non-stop challenges."
Campers might design and build a concrete beam, develop a system to purify water, build a sprinkler system, perform materials testing, or build a three-legged chair.
Additionally, they are exposed to a wide range of engineering and construction disciplines at the various laboratories at the service academy sites, he says.
The main focus of the camps is “Build, then design” through hands-on experience. The idea is to let students learn by try to figure out on their own how to build something, and then find out later why some things worked and others did not.
Where else could a budding engineer proudly wear—without fear of high school peer torment—a T-shirt that reads: "Civil engineering is not a career, it's a post apocalyptic survival skill" or "I AM AN ENGINEER ... to save time, let's just say I'm never wrong." One camp's Facebook site displays the relevant T-shirt collection.
The camps are led by a professional staff of engineers from private industry, the military services, military cadets and college students from across the country, and campers can interact with cadets and local firm professionals.
In addition to looking for high-performing and motivated campers, SAME is seeking practitioners and educators who can not only instruct and mentor participants, but also inspire the kind of excitement needed to make them choose engineering and construction for study and career.
The Air Force Academy is the longest-running camp, but SAME also offers camps at the U.S. Army installation at Vicksburg, Miss., and at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Participants need to be in 15 to apply, demonstrate strong skills in math, science and technology and be interested in pursuing a degree in engineering at a service academy or U.S. college or university.
Prosuch notes the many letters he's gotten from former participants, and parents, with descriptions of the “life changing” camp experience.
“As I continue to fill out these college applications, a common question schools ask includes identifying my most memorable life experiences. I can easily say that that week at the Academy was the most informative, interactive, and enjoyable experience I've ever come across in my lifetime,” said one camp graduate. "I wanted to thank you for providing me this life-changing opportunity. You have played an influential role in discovering what person I truly want to be."
To find out more potentially life-changing details on the SAME camps, click here.
Pam Hunter is a Washington, DC area-based ENR editor who covers environmental news, the federal government and other industry topics. She can be reached at pamela.hunter@ construction.com.