LEAPP - Teen Engineering Leadership Program
Instructors with a DiscoverE engineering and science program have tapped into a force of nature that is a wonder to behold: groups of high school students on a mission.
Their energy and excitement are palpable as teams of teens enrolled in the Leadership and Engineering Applications, Projects and Possibilities (LEAPP) program work together to wrap up their final project of the week. The scene is reminiscent of cable television programs where teams scramble to complete projects in a competition against the clock, while meeting their own exacting standards.
Their work space no longer resembles a university lecture hall. Hammers, glue guns and rulers are on desks and drawings of projects are left behind as teams engineer on the fly, making last-minute design changes to their projects.
These youths, ranging from Grade 9 – 12, are clearly having a blast. “I’d recommend this to anybody,” says LEAPP participant Kaitlin. “A lot of people don’t know the kinds of things engineers get to do, and how many different kinds of engineers there are, like chemical, computer, mechanical and electrical.”
Throughout the week, she said, LEAPP participants would be working steadily on projects only to have new, unexpected challenges thrown their way. For example, in one building project the teams had to select a type of wood to use—one was better than the other. If teams discovered they’d made the wrong choice, they had to work together to creatively solve the problem.
“A lot of people don’t know the challenges engineers face,” Kaitlin says. “They design a project and choose their materials at the beginning and you can’t really change the material half-way through building something.”
Taught by U of A engineering students Ali Arshad and Sara Dmitri, the LEAPP program gives participants an insider’s view of what engineering is all about—using math and science to solve real-life challenges.
Arshad, a second-year engineering student, wants to give LEAPP students a “daily challenge” that reflects the reality of engineering. At the same time, participants work in teams and use their creativity and imagination, considering even the most improbable of schemes to arrive at innovative solutions.
“Imagine if you are an engineer and something unforeseen happens, or a natural disaster strikes—you have to respond to that and solve problems,” Arshad said. “Engineering is one big problem-solving field and there’s an effective way of working with people to solve problems and there are different ways of making decisions. These are skills you need for the rest of your life.”
Dmitri says it’s rewarding, as an instructor, to see LEAPP participants overcome obstacles the instructors present them with.
“When we come in and add a new wrinkle to a project they’re working on, that’s when you really see the wheels turning,” says Dmitri, a second-year engineering student. “You see them thinking ‘How can we make this happen?’ They learn about working in groups too—you see them addressing issues like division of labour and group dynamics when they divide tasks among the group.”
LEAPP participants found the week’s projects fun and eye-opening.
Sean, a Grade 11 student in the LEAPP program, says he now has a better idea of what engineering is all about.
“It’s engineering, basically,” he says of LEAPP. “It shows you what you can do with small projects and it’s really interesting to understand the processes that engineers go through to decide what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.”
Established by engineering students at the University of Alberta in 1993, DiscoverE delivers high-impact classroom workshops, unique clubs and events, and engaging summer camps to nearly 20,000 youth every year. Its programs reach more than 50 communities across the Edmonton area, northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
There is one more LEAPP camp running this summer, from Aug. 27 – 31 and a few spaces are available. Visit the DiscoverE website for more information.
LEAPP-ing into action
Instructor Sara Dmitri, a second-year civil engineering student, provides a team with advice on a major project.
A LEAPP participant is the picture of concentration as he focuses on a technical challenge.
With the clock running, a group tests part of its design before moving to the next phase of a project.
Lead instructor Ali Arshad (right), a second-year civil engineering student, gives a LEAPP participant some one-on-one instruction.
One challenge LEAPP teams faced was an advanced marble works project—instructors added new wrinkles to the challenge, keeping teams on their toes.