Published August 9, 2017
Choosing an area of study for a college degree is a major decision, one that can be difficult for many teens. How do you know if a degree in engineering is a good fit, for example, if you have never tried it?
Fortunately, for a group of local high school students that decision may have just gotten easier. As part of the 2017 UB/National Grid Leadership Camp, 60 rising high school sophomores and juniors spent four days at the University at Buffalo learning about careers in STEM, experiencing campus life, and working together on an engineering design project.
Ken Kujawa, Regional Manager at National Grid, spoke to the camp participants about the increasing need for engineering talent at National Grid and throughout the Western New York region.
“We want to stimulate your minds this week,” he said. “You may not end up working for National Grid, but we want your brain power here in Western New York.”
Since the camp’s inception four years ago, the theme has rotated from air to land to sea. This year’s challenge, focusing on the air theme, was to build an environmental drone and an obstacle course that could be used to conduct testing in safety, recovery and disaster scenarios.
To accomplish their task, the students were divided into four teams of 15 students each. Each team consisted of three groups that focused on different aspects of the project: drone construction, flight/software, and obstacle course.
Brian Smith, Founder and Executive Director of EduSerc, developed the concept for this year’s project and provided guidance to the students throughout the duration of the camp. Smith stressed the importance of working in teams, saying that true engineering often involves bringing together different thought processes to find a solution to a problem.
“I hope they learn how to communicate with each other, listen to each other’s ideas, and use critical thinking skills to build a solution,” said Smith, who has a background in electrical engineering and 24 years’ experience in robotics. “I hope they get a better idea through this experience of what they want to do in the future.”
Camp participants are students with an aptitude in math and science who are nominated to take part in the program by a school representative. SEAS especially encourages nominations of students from groups that are underrepresented in STEM professions.
Throughout the week, the students used skills in electronics, robotics, mechanics and construction to complete their projects. On the last day of the camp, the students tested their drones in the obstacle courses they had constructed.
Several students in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences volunteer with the camp each year. Jenna Le, mechanical engineering sophomore and first time camp volunteer, said she really enjoyed the experience.
“I love working with the students. They are extremely smart,” said Le. “It’s cool seeing the engineering in action and seeing the different ideas come together.”
Ken Kujawa, regional manager at National Grid, welcomes campers as the UB/National Grid Leadership Camp gets underway. Photo: Sarah D'Iorio
Liam Christie, an undergraduate electrical engineering student, gives an overview of research in the Sensors & MicroActuators Learning Lab, where he works as an undergraduate researcher. Photo: Sarah D'Iorio
Brian Smith of EduSerc, a Maryland-based nonprofit, addresses students on Monday inside Davis Hall. Photo: Sarah D'Iorio
About 60 students from Buffalo area high schools spent four days at UB learning about careers in the STEM fields and experiencing campus life. Photo: Sarah D'Iorio
Students work in a team to construct their drone. Each student team consists of a drone construction group, a flight/software group and an obstacle course group. Photo: Holly Acito
Students also took field trips, including an excursion to National Grid's facility on Dewey Avenue in Buffalo, where they learned about the bucket ladder.
Students try on some gear during a field trip to National Grid's facility on Dewey Avenue in Buffalo.
Brian Smith of EduSerc, a Maryland-based nonprofit, shows camp attendees the finer points of drone technology. Photo: Christina Escobar
This obstacle course, near Greiner Hall, isn’t for the students. It’s for the drones. Photo: Christina Escobar
Campers make their way out to the obstacle course to test their drones and their flying skills. Photo: Holly Acito
Published August 8, 2017