Not only are West Virginia University’s Engineering Challenge Camps a great way to introduce students to the possibilities in STEM-related fields, they also serve as a great recruiting tool for the Statler College.
“The camps act as a recruitment tool because campers have the opportunity to spend a week on campus learning about all the exciting things happening at WVU engineering,” said Cate Schlobohm, Statler College outreach program coordinator. “For many campers, this is their first time on a college campus, so the camps help take away some of the mystery of what it’s like to go away to college.”
Before attending the College’s Growing Roots in STEM Camp in 2014, and the Engineering in Action Camp in 2015, neither Heather Joyce of Wadestown, or Abigail Osborne of Hurricane, had ever stepped foot on the WVU campus.
“I’ve always been interested in the University and even though I lived close to Morgantown I hadn’t really toured the campus or any of the buildings,” Joyce said. “Attending the camp really allowed me to see that the people that go to school here and work for the University are all extremely encouraging and it gave me a feel for what WVU was all about.”
The campers spent a week on campus being immersed in engineering activities. They constructed planes, created cardboard canoes and learned about the variety of jobs that engineers do. The experience inspired both women to pursue engineering degrees at WVU.
“My camping experience definitely influenced my college decision,” Osborne said. “At first I thought I really did not want to attend WVU but after such a positive camp experience and an inviting campus tour WVU seemed like the place for me.”
After enrolling in the fall of 2016, the campers were connected through a roommate matching portal that the University offers to incoming freshmen. They discovered that in additional to attending camp, they had also both been accepted into the Honors College. The two quickly bonded and decided to become roommates.
“It was really great having a roommate in engineering,” said Osborne. “It helped to have someone there to discuss school work with because a lot of the times we would have similar if not the same homework and tests to study for.”
The roommates made it through their first year of college successfully, leaning on each other for support and encouragement along the way. As they headed into their first summer break they were in search of a meaningful way to spend their time off.
“I saw an ad on Twitter that the College was looking for engineering camp counselors and thought that it would be a great way to spend my summer since I love STEM and working with kids,” Osborne said. “It was really awesome connecting and working with my counselors when I was a camper and it really inspired me to want to do the same for them.”
Osborne encouraged Joyce to apply as well.
“When I attended the engineering camp I was unsure about what I wanted to do and I didn’t think that engineering was for me,” Joyce said. “After spending a week figuring out what engineering was all about and the different types of jobs involved with it I decided that this was the field I wanted to go into. I wanted to be a camp counselor so I could help other kids develop the same passion that I did.”
The counselors currently have three weeks of camping under their belt, with several more to go. They both agree that working with students has been a rewarding experience.
“It really is a blessing to get to work with these young people and watch them bond and learn throughout the week,” Osborne said. “It really makes it worth all the trials and tribulations that each week brings when a camper runs up to you on Friday to show you their final project and to reminisce about the memories they’ve made. Each group has been different and awesome in their own ways and I think they have found some inspiration from myself and the other counselors.”
The counselors have both come a long way since their days as campers. They were recently accepted into their desired majors at the University, industrial engineering for Joyce and biomedical engineering for Osborne. They will begin taking specialized engineering classes this fall, bringing them one step closer to becoming professional engineers.
“It makes me very proud to see former campers become engineering students because it means that we helped foster a passion for their future career path,” Schlobohm said. “It’s really exciting to watch a camper come full circle.”
Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources