NCTSPM summer camp sparks curiosity of future engineers

Last summer, then 10-year-old Isaiah Anderson was playing with Legos. This year, the rising Atlanta sixth grader came to Georgia Tech to learn how to use Game Salad, a game-programming software.

Next up?

“I want to be a robotics engineer,” says Anderson, one of more than 700 area students to attend an intensive STEM-oriented camp sponsored by Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Math and Computing (CEISMC).

“I want to find a way to have the military be automated, so we don’t have to send people to fight wars.”

“And he’ll do it,” says his beaming father, Lucius Anderson, who came to campus with his wife, Ayanna, to watch their son make his final presentation on July 19. “He’s always been a problem solver.”

Anderson’s camp session – and another one for high school-aged students – was geared toward introducing students to transportation engineering, one of the many specialties offered by Georgia Tech’s School of Civil Engineering, says Dr. Mike Hunter.

“But the main point of the camps is to introduce students to the rigors of engineering, to hook them on the challenge that the profession presents,” says Hunter, the director of Georgia Tech’s National Center for Transportation Systems and Productivity Management (NCTSPM).

“And we are really pleased with the enthusiasm that we saw. If I had my guess, I’d say we’ll be seeing some of these students at Georgia Tech in a few years.”

Instructors in the weeklong camp helped students to see how computer-programmed simulations are helpful to transportation engineers, said Julie Sonnenberg-Klein, CEISMC’s education outreach manager.

“Students also visited the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Transportation Management Center, where they observed dispatchers and an engineer explained the operations,” said Sonnenberg-Klein.

“Both activities helped them understand the importance of keeping traffic moving and clearing hazardous situations. Some of the kids today didn't want to leave.”

One of those stragglers was Isaiah Anderson. The pint-sized bundle of energy and ambition was so enthralled by the computer programming section that he didn’t flinch when his project – a virtual piano that also made ‘meow’ sounds like a cat – didn’t immediately work. His attitude, said Hunter, is what marks a successful engineer.

“I ran into a couple of bugs, but it came out okay because I kept adjusting it,” said Anderson. “That’s what engineers do. They have to keep adjusting things.”

All told, CEISMC held more than 25 summer camps at Georgia Tech this summer. Find out more about  CEISMC and the NCTSPM.