Fifty area middle school students are expected to participate in the Lamar Introduction to Engineering (L.I.T.E.) summer program, hosted by Lamar University’s College of Engineering July 18-22, 2016. The free one-week non-residential camp serves incoming seventh and eighth-grade students who excel in mathematics and science, and is partially funded by a grant through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, ExxonMobil and BASF Corp.

“The goal of L.I.T.E. is to introduce middle school students to STEM disciplines early in their education so they feel confident in their decision to choose a suitable endorsement when transitioning into high school,” said Tracy Benson, associate professor of chemical engineering and camp program leader. “Lamar University is proud to have this program on campus. We get a lot of support from our industrial partners and the surrounding community, and that’s what will continue to make it a success.”

The program begins with hands-on activities to familiarize participants with different disciplines of engineering. They will engage in discussions to identify potential problems and decide how an engineer would approach a solution. Throughout the week, participants will also work in teams to compete in the ExxonMobil Trebuchet Design Challenge to design, build and operate a trebuchet within the prescribed specifications.

An engineering marvel of the 12th century, a trebuchet is a type of siege engine from the Middle Ages that used a counterweight to fling projectiles up to 350 pounds into enemy fortifications. While the students’ projects will be on a smaller scale, the challenge will help them “enhance problem-solving skills and instill the values of trial-error testing, trouble shooting and teamwork,” Benson said.

At the end of the program, students will present a culmination of results that stem from the design challenge.

“We hope that each student can walk away with more knowledge about engineering and choose STEM as a potential field of interest in their future,” Benson said. “It is also our goal to follow these students through high school. We would like to see each of these students graduate ready to pursue post-secondary education in engineering or other STEM fields.”

The program’s partners are ExxonMobil, BASF Corp., NASA and Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME). Each of the partners will offer students a unique opportunity to learn about various aspects of engineering and science. For example, the NASA tour will teach students a brief history of energy, energy resources, innovation and the importance of STEM education through interactive exhibits.

Participants will also have the opportunity to eat lunch each day with industry representatives.

“The industrial representatives are experts in their fields,” Benson said. “Several discussion topics will be provided to encourage student engagement in the conversations. The students will gain great exposure to what engineering is all about.”

The camp will end with a BASF Corp. sponsored activity. Students will tour TAME’s traveling science trailer, the “Trailblazer.” The Trailblazer provides students with exciting, hands-on exhibits that teach about energy, space, weather, biotechnology and aerodynamics while also introducing students to educational and career opportunities in STEM.

More information on the L.I.T.E. summer program is available by contacting Rachel Edwards in the Lamar University College of Engineering Office of Outreach and Student Services, (409) 880-8768 or rachel.edwards@lamar.edu.