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Engineering Summer Institute: STEM students get a taste of the future

A group of high school and middle school students explored ever-expanding STEM careers during Anderson University’s first Engineering Summer Institute.

The Anderson University College of Engineering just completed its first Engineering Summer Institute. Funding was provided in part by the Bosch Community Fund, the corporate foundation for Bosch in North America.

The Engineering Summer Institute is a week-long opportunity to expose middle and high school students to fast-growing fields where the pay is high and jobs are very much in demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are outpacing the available supply of qualified talent.

The Engineering Summer Institute took place in July at Anderson University and the Anderson Institute of Technology. A total of 24 campers from middle school and high school learned engineering hands-on while interacting with College of Engineering faculty and engineering professionals currently working in the field.

Students explored various engineering disciplines (i.e., Biosystems Engineering, Electrical Engineering, General Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering) as well as fun social and recreational opportunities and a chance to sample college life. There were also tours of facilities at Bosch and Ryobi, where students could see the cutting-edge technology used by these top global manufacturers in their Upstate South Carolina plants.

Working with a 3D printer inspired Colby Spearman about the possibilities of an engineering degree. Jack Foster, a homeschooled student, attended the Engineering Summer Institute with his brother, Wyatt, and sister, Emma. When asked about what sort of engineering degree he wanted, Jack said, “I think automotive engineering—more with electric cars.” Wyatt, his brother, is seeking to enter aerospace engineering.

“I’m really interested in doing bioengineering. It’s just been something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” said Kayleigh Fouschey, a homeschooled high school student.

“I want to do mechanical engineering and hopefully go into the Air Force and work on aircraft. I’ve always liked taking stuff apart and putting it back together; this seems like the type of job I would like to be able to do,” said Eli Thomas, a student at Belton Honea Path High School.


Learning hands-on

The students learned about many applications that involve the use of drones at Rocky River Nature Park, a nature preserve located on the Anderson University campus. Using imagery captured by drones and thermal cameras, they analyzed the impact of heat and water levels on plants. While many of the students had flown drones, most were unaware of how powerful a research tool they could actually be. Engineering professor Dr. Stephen Ojo commented that such analysis is important in areas such as agriculture where crops might be analyzed for the best possible course of treatment.

Students also learned about working as a design team while collaborating on CAD design software. With a 3D printer, they designed, fabricated and assembled parts to make a cell phone case they could keep. They also did some virtual and physical bridge building exercises using trusses. Awards were handed out to the lowest-cost functional bridge as well as the bridge with the largest force-to-mass ratio.

Engineering professor Dr. Ryan Karkkainen, who has a back- ground in automotive safety engineering from Ford Motor Company, led a session focusing on designing for safety in a motor vehicle. Students took what they learned and formed teams to create safe enclosures for their passenger: an egg. The integrity of their designs was put to the test by dropping them from different heights. Awards were handed out to the team that designed a safe enclosure for their passenger and weighed the least. There was also an award for the team that had the most creative and safe design.

“I’ve given this talk a lot of times and never enjoyed it so much as when I gave it today. Just so many and interesting questions—I didn’t necessarily expect that,” Dr. Karkkainen said. “They got so much out of the presentation—more than I expected. That was fantastic to see, and what a credit to high school education that I see engineering being worked into. That’s starting to show, and I think it’s going to pay off.”

The Engineering Summer Institute concluded with final presentations of projects and an awards ceremony. The Engineering Summer Institute teaches students valuable soft skills as they collaborate with one another in teams and present their ideas to an audience.

When surveyed, students on average responded favorably about choosing an engineering career.

Considering that most of the students had never attended an engineering camp before or that more than half had never engaged in any engineering-related project, Engineering Summer Institute Program Director Dr. Kayode Karunwi was excited by their interest in selecting an engineering career. Dr. Gilbert Eyabi, interim dean of the College of Engineering, is optimistic that some camp participants will major in engineering at Anderson University someday.


The Anderson University College of Engineering

A defining trait for the Anderson University College of Engineering is its distinctiveness in providing a comprehensive engineering education that combines a liberal arts tradition, professional education and a Christian worldview.

Learn more about the Anderson University College of Engineering at: