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Local students take part in engineering camp

CHESAPEAKE — Eric Sias, 13, stood outside Chesapeake High School Tuesday morning with hands in his pockets and heart in his throat.

He was getting ready to find out if his design of popsicle sticks and drinking straws would be the one to keep

a large grade A egg safe and cozy within its shell or turn it sunny side up on the pavement.

Sias and other Chesapeake Middle students found out during the second day of a special engineering summer camp that you have to break a lot of eggs to become an engineer.

Under the auspices of the national Project Lead the Way, the one-week camp was designed to introduce these young teens to the pre-engineering classes they may take when they head to high school.

Started in 1997, the non-profit organization began in New York State by offering classes to high school students as part of their regular curriculum to introduce them to the careers in engineering and the biomedical field. The mission is to increase the number of engineers and other scientists in the United States.

Four

years ago Project Lead the Way was introduced to the Dawson-Bryant and Rock Hill school systems. Last year Chesapeake schools joined in the program and in the fall of 2008 South Point schools will add classes.

On Tuesday morning the group’s assignment was to take 20 drinking straws, 10 popsicle sticks and 30 inches of masking tape and design a container that would keep an egg from breaking when dropped from 7 feet.

“It’s their own design,” said Ival Shields, one of the instructors, “They are the engineers. It’s critical thinking for the kids to expand their skills, instead of just doing what has happened in the past.”

After an hour of taping and twisting, the fledgling scientists went out to the side yard at the high school to see if any designs actually worked.

Unfortunately, the official egg drops resulted in a big goose egg for all the teens. But that in itself was a beneficial lesson the camp instructors contend.

“Now they need to look at the design, what is wrong and could be different,” Susan Arthur, an instructor, said. “You have to go back to the drawing board.”

Teaming up with partner Charlie Blair for the egg assignment, Sias is at the camp because he sees engineering classes as a boost to his overall goal of becoming a cardiologist.

“My mom is one,” he said. “This kind of helps me think better and learn to solve problems.”

Blair, who is leaning toward studying electrical engineering later on, also sees the camp as a first step to fine-tuning his critical thinking.

“I’ve learned how to build things, to construct stuff on a computer,” he said. “It’s actually kind of fun.”