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Students dive into engineering

Jun. 15, 2009 @ 08:37 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Yellow caution tape lines part of the exterior of Smith Hall, and up on the roof, you can see an engineer's playground of catapults, cranes and other devices.

That must mean it's time for the future engineers of the region to get their play-filled camp started at Marshall University.

Sunday afternoon, 36 students from high schools in seven states were welcomed to Marshall University's Huntington campus to take part in the ninth annual Exploring Engineering: Academy of Excellence (EEAE), which runs through Friday.

Addressing a packed house of parents and students in Smith Hall, Dr. William Pierson, chair of the Weisberg Division of Engineering and Computer Science at Marshall, said it's a whole lot of learning wrapped around a whole lot of hands-on fun.

"We know some people call it Nerd Camp," Pierson said, getting a big laugh from the crowd. "We call it fun. ... We hope to get you to understand how engineers play a role in everyday life."

To get that understanding, Pierson and a staff of teachers and students at Marshall have a packed week of activities that includes lectures in the brand new Weisberg Engineering Lab, introductions to GPS, work on landscape design, a robotics competition with Legos and field trips to the West Virginia-American Water Plant in Charleston, the Toyota Plant in Buffalo and J.H. Fletcher in Huntington.

Oh yeah, and on Tuesday, building catapults to see who can launch tennis balls the farthest.

"It's a lot of hands-on activities and teamwork and a lot of learning by doing," Pierson said. "We're also able to really showcase Marshall and what it has to offer.

Beth Wolfe, MU's director of recruitment, said not only is the academy a great way for students to explore the field of engineering, it is a wonderful opportunity for them to explore Marshall University and all it has to offer.

"By living in our residence halls and interacting with our faculty and students, they get a real sense of life at Marshall," Wolfe said in a release.

The academy is funded through donations from individuals and corporations. This year's premier sponsors, Chesapeake Energy and the Nick J. Rahall II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI), contributed a combined $50,000, allowing the academy to expand activities.

"RTI and Chesapeake are proud partners in supporting a program that allows students to actively participate in such a valuable learning experience," RTI Director and CEO Bob Plymale said. "The additional funding allows the academy to increase the number of students participating and enhance the learning experience."

Students are selected for the camp based upon their interest in and aptitude for engineering. Grades, courses taken and letters of recommendation are taken into consideration. The camp primarily tries to attract rising high school juniors.

To give students an intro into how engineers impact the world, Sunday's opening ceremony guest speaker was Rodney Holbert of Burgess & Niple.

Holbert, who started his presentation by showing slides of him dangling in climbing gear hundreds of feet up inspecting bridges, really hammered home the one of the major themes of the 2009 academy: "Engineers Make a Difference."

Holbert shared his profound experiences with Engineers Without Borders, a group that helps communities around the world solve problems to better the world

Holbert and his wife have made two trips and are traveling again later this year to Rancho Grande in Nicaragua, where he has helped that city properly chlorinate the town's drinking supply that had been making all of its children sick.

"This camp will change your life," Holbert said. "One way or another. It may cause some of you to really want to become and engineer and for others it may make you think, 'Nah, I want to do something else.' "

Betsy Dulin, dean of Marshall's College of Information Technology and Engineering, said the engineering academy is one of the highlights of summer for the college.

"We've been pleased and honored during the past eight years to host the students participating in the camp," Dulin said in a release. "We look forward to meeting the outstanding students participating this year as well."

Camp Catapult

Here's a look at some the 36 students on Marshall University's Huntington campus this week to take part in the ninth annual Exploring Engineering: Academy of Excellence (EEAE), which runs through Friday. For a complete list, go online at www.herald-dispatch.com.

The 2009 participants include:

Elishah Cabarrus, Grayson Davis, Hollie Keesee and Luke Rapp, all of Huntington; Sam Huffman of Hurricane, W.Va.; Brandon Maynard of Fort Gay; Drew Price of Kenova; David Russell of Barboursville; Dylan Watson of Wayne; Anthony Whaley of Ironton, Ohio.

J.P. Calo of Martinsburg, W.Va.; Jordan Coldsmith of Chambersburg, Pa.; Sydney Combs of London, Ky.; Emily Deinert of Jackson, Ohio; Alex Dutkevitch of Indianapolis, Ind.; Levi Exline of Jackson, Ohio; Ronald FiField of Paw Paw, W.Va;

Colin Frosch of Fairmont, W.Va.; Ethan Garrison of Sistersville, W.Va.; Zach Humphreys of Wheelersburg, Ohio; Cara Lauber of Fort Collins, Colo.; David Leaphart of Thurman, Ohio; Jason Long of New Martinsville, W.Va.;

Tori Morgan of Glasgow, Ky.; Carly O'Dell of Fairmont, W.Va.; Mat Pack of Leon, W.Va.; Alex Poindexter of Glasgow, Ky.; Conor Pyles of Chapmanville, W.Va.; Allie Shaner of Farmington, W.Va.;

Natalie Shields of Glasgow, Ky.; Tucker Simonton of Orange Park, Fla.; Connor Stephens of Hilliard, Ohio; Emily Wells of Sistersville, W.Va.; Lauren Wheeler of Bridgeport, W.Va.; Emily Wildman of Paden City, W.Va., and Ruth Williams of Summersville, W.Va.



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