Most youth between ages 12 and 16 spend their summer break going to the beach, hanging out with friends and just taking it easy. But for 100 middle and high school students, this summer has meant hitting the books and learning about different careers as part of the Corpus Christi Prefreshman Engineering Program (TexPREP) at Del Mar College.
On July 24, campers demonstrated and discussed projects they designed using principles of mathematics, engineering and science that they have learned during the 2012 TexPREP camp. This year, the camp featured the first “Most Protected, Ruggedly Designed and Custom Made Robot Tanks and Longest Running Competition,” in other words, a battle of the robots.
The competition showcased student-built robots vying against other robots using computer programs to lock up their opponents while students attempted to keep their robots running the longest. The robots were built like tanks and included various metal and wood bumpers and attachments for protection and to disable their opponents. The models were programmed and used small motors and transmissions demonstrating good design, strength and speed.
Students also blasted a plane or rocket at a 45-degree angle across the atrium area in the College’s Venters Business Building on the East Campus. The highest flying craft indoors won. Additionally, straw bridge designs illustrated engineering principles used to create each structure.
“Our program’s main intent is to give students the ability to learn from and experience college-level courses taught by college instructors in Del Mar College facilities,” says Jaime Garcia, TexPREP assistant director and DMC adjunct instructor of engineering. “Additionally, we have over 23 guest speakers, and each student goes on seven field trips. The daily guest speakers give our young participants a true view of the many opportunities the real world offers outside of the classroom. These activities help to motivate them to do better in math and science and also pursue carriers in these fields.”
The young geniuses choose to spend five hours each day for seven weeks for intense, but fun, study of logic, mathematics and engineering. They have even learned about problem solving, programming systems and languages as well as study different engineering fields.
“The students learned about programming from an electrical engineering instructor experienced in robotics from Texas A&M University-Kingsville,” adds Garcia. He notes that TexPREP participants were exposed to the curriculum that normally is used to teach engineering students at the university.
During the camp, students have taken field trips to learn about career opportunities focusing on engineering and physics. Trips included visiting engineering and technology labs at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University—Kingsville, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, the Texas Department of Public Safety and a general tour of the Del Mar College’s East and West Campuses.
Del Mar College is the local site for TexPREP and offers the free program to talented junior high and high school students who want to get a head start on high school science and mathematics. The TexPREP curriculum emphasizes study and research work in mathematics, computer science and engineering with an overall objective of increasing the number of students who will pursue engineering, science, mathematics and technological studies when they attend college.
Funding for the program comes from Del Mar College and the Sid Richardson Foundation.
IN THE PICTURE: TexPREP students gather around the robot competition as campers' tank-like designs vie for the top spot.