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Photo: Andrea Holzworth/College of Engineering
L. Scott Miller explains how tail fins stabilize an arrow in flight on the first day of the High School Aerospace Camp, hosted by WSU's College of Engineering.

WSU engineering boosts diversity through summer camps

Thursday, July 10, 2014 | Share

Wichita State University’s College of Engineering hosted 272 children at 13 camps this summer. The camps are a valuable recruitment tool in promoting engineering to those typically underrepresented in STEM fields -- females, African Americans and Hispanics.

A combination of targeted recruitment and scholarships allowed WSU to enroll 115 under-represented students in this year’s camps.

The High School Aerospace Camp, offered for the first time this year to 9th-12th graders, had a particularly high rate of underrepresented students -- 21 out of 25 students.

Funded with support from Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus, Boeing and NASA, the week-long overnight camp was taught by L. Scott Miller, aerospace department chair. Miller was assisted by camp director Christ Wyant, a Project Lead The Way pre-engineering teacher at Wichita High School East.

Miller volunteered his time to develop and teach a curriculum for the camp, which introduced the four core concepts of aerospace engineering: aerodynamics, structures, stability and control/propulsion.

“It is personally rewarding to see that we developed a motivational, educational and just plain fun camp with a good mix of instructional, lab and hands-on activities,” Miller said. “Perhaps just as important, the schedule included notable and important time for one-to-one interactions between campers, industry supporters and WSU staff.”

Campers toured several WSU engineering and National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) laboratories, including the Beech Wind Tunnel, the Supersonic Wind Tunnel and NIAR’s Environmental Test Labs. Each camper designed and constructed their own walk-along gliders for a flight test competition held at the Heskett Center. Representatives from Spirit, Airbus and Boeing met with students twice during the week, observing lessons and the glider competition.

Though department chairs don’t typically run summer camps for youth, Miller is convinced it was a worthwhile investment of time: “Based on camper feedback, it is clear the impact is lasting and more excellent students (especially women) will become engineers. Indeed, I look forward to seeing them again -- as future freshmen aerospace students.”

In addition to the aerospace camp, the College of Engineering offered 12 half-day camps, including:

  • The LEGO Robotics camps for 4th-8th graders.
  • The GameMaker programming camp for 6th-12th graders.
  • MINDSTORMS Edge, a new advanced LEGO Robotics camp for 6th-8th graders.
  • Raspberry Pi, a new programming camp for 7th-9th graders.
  • STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics), a new creative camp for 4th-8th graders.

Camp tuition averaged $150 for the half-day camps and $450 for the overnight camp. Twenty-five percent of campers received scholarships covering nearly their entire cost.

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Created on Thursday, July 10, 2014; Last modified on Tuesday, July 29, 2014