Liberty News

Middle schoolers get hands-on engineering experience at LU camp

August 10, 2017 : Liberty University News Service

Summer may be coming to a close for many students in the Lynchburg community, but that did not stop 35 rising sixth- and seventh-graders from participating in the Liberty University School of Engineering & Computational Sciences’ Energy & Curiosity Camp August 8-11.

The half-day camp, which is run by Liberty engineering professors and student lab assistants, is aimed at giving area youth the chance to learn about the basics of engineering through hands-on demonstrations. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn a new skill while helping advance progress on the final project — a levitating solar-powered electric motor that each student will build on their own and write a report on to present to the group. Some of the topics explored in the modules include computer-aided design, mechanics, electric magnetism, mechanics, and manufacturing.

This is the first camp of its kind sponsored by Liberty’s engineering school.

“As middle schoolers, they are at a pivotal crossroads as they transition from elementary school to high school,” Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Hector Medina said. “A camp like this helps lay the foundation where they can explore an interest in mathematics and science.”

It’s also a chance for them to learn more about Liberty’s degree offerings.

“People associate Liberty as a Christian school with a focus only on the liberal arts,” Medina said. “But we want them to know that we have an excellent engineering program available. We’re excited to bring awareness to our program while serving our community as well.”

School of Engineering & Computational Sciences Dean David Donahoo called the camp a great preparational tool.

“Engineering is all about sensing something needs a solution, curiously asking questions, and applying the facts, science, and math to design and create a solution,” Donahoo said. “If we can give them a vision now, as they get ready to start the high school phase of their education, they will have a head start in applied sciences and mathematics.

Lab assistant Anthony Palloto, a senior engineering student, was more than ready to help the students with their modules. Obsessed with space and flight as a kid, Palloto said he is passionate about teaching campers who share the same passions.

“At this age you can soak up so much,” Palloto said. “This is the best time to be exposed to things because you’re really starting to develop who you are as a human in how you act and what you think. Exposing kids at this age group is really key in giving them the knowledge that they need in order to go into STEM technology.”

For sixth-grade student Graysen Pinder, the camp has been a way for her to explore the field of engineering.

“A lot of my friends had been to camps like this and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to try it,” she said. “I really liked working with creating a design on the computer and taking notes because I like to review them later so I can teach others what I found interesting.”