New generation makes engineering DiscoverE

Michael Hughes and Nathan Brady with their robot—which won a race competition.

Edmonton —A new generation of explorers interested in engineering, science and technology arrived at the Faculty of Engineering today as two months of DiscoverE summer camps were launched.

In all, 162 DiscoverE campers began their week-long activities Monday, learning about everything from how whales hear to how to build robots.

In one lab, seven-year-old Walker Lee and his camp mates used yarn and wire coat hangers to learn about the ways sound travels and how beluga whales hear.

“The sound goes into their mouth and up into their ears—their ears are inside,” said Lee.

Asked if he likes the large “fishes” Lee demonstrated his extensive knowledge of whales.

“They’re not fishes—they’re underwater mammals. They’re marine mammals,” he said. “I’ve seen hump back whales breach the surface, and orcas, and dolphins. And I’ve seen belugas in captivity.”

In the arena of man-made critters, Anna Culkin and Noah Cross were designing and building robots using Lego Mindstorm kits.

“I was in this camp last year and it was really fun,” said Culkin, who is going into Grade 9 this fall. “I spent my whole childhood building with this stuff.

Cross is equally interested in the prospect of creating a working robot from scratch.

“This has really been fun so far,” he said. “I really just like building things—robots and mechanical stuff, so I am really enjoying this.”

Robotics camp instructors Annika Palm, a second-year engineering student, and Michael Zhang, who is in his fifth year of a science-education degree, said the first day of camp was running smoothly.

Palm says she is teaching some things that she was taught in a first-year engineering computing class.

“I struggled with that class and now I’m really glad I took it—I’ll be teaching some of the things I learned in my first year.”

Zhang said the DiscoverE camps are his “dream summer job” because kids get excited about learning.

“With this type of camp you get to see the creativity of the campers,” he said. “They all have the same goal, but you really see their ingenuity and creativity come out in how they reach that goal.”

Campers Michael Hughes and Nathan Brady won a robot race competition with a sleek, three-wheeled robot design.

“A project like this makes you think,” said Hughes. “We had to consider where and how to build the drive train and how strong it has to be and how to make it look good.”

Although most classes fill up quickly, there are still slots available in some of the upcoming DiscoverE camps, according to DiscoverE program director Melissa Baron. High school students interested in science and technology have a chance to learn about engineering in the Leadership in Engineering: Applications, Projects and Possibilities (LEAPP) camps.

“They have free-design projects that are more complex than the other camps. Their instructors are all engineering students and they get to meet engineering professors, tour Faculty of Engineering machine shops and nanotechnology labs and really build strong relationships with people who can become their mentors,” she said.

LEAPP camps run July 19 – 23 and August 16 – 20.

Baron added that there are still some spots available for junior high school students as well, in 3-D games and animation camps.

“All of these programs are very high impact,” she said of DiscoverE. “For the students in junior high school, they are asking themselves a lot of questions about finishing high school and going to university. By coming to campus, they learn about the options that are available to them.

“And they make friends—not just friends for a week at camp—they form good strong friendships with each other.”