This summer middle school students make engineering breakthroughs through an innovative summer program at a community college.
Brilliance is not always neat and orderly. Sometimes it looks downright cluttered.
Classrooms at the Havelock Campus of Craven Community College looked more than cluttered. They looked like a tornado had hit.
On several tables were plastic eggs, glue guns, strands of wire, paper, foam, propellers, solar-powered motors and what seemed like millions of Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors.
But out of all that chaos, 60 students in the annual Middle School Engineering Camp were making connections and forging breakthroughs.
“I made an anemometer to show wind speed. I made a solar powered boat. I’ve made egg car protection to see if it will hurt it when it hits the wall and I made a windmill that makes LED light,” said Will Sherrill, of Havelock. “It’s fun and it gives me a chance to build and it gives me a chance to learn new things. I learned how engineering kicks in to help different designs.”
At the center of that whirlwind of activity was Dr. Bill Fortney, an engineering professor from North Carolina State University who has led the program since it first started in 2007.
“We try to introduce the kids to just what the whole field of engineering is. Our big goal is we try to let them have a fun experience with engineering,” Fortney said. “Research really shows that middle school is a critical time when kids are making their career choice and what we find is that they really don’t understand engineering, so if things aren’t done to help them understand that field, they would never pick it as a career. “They may be good in math and science but they really don’t know what to do with it. “