Under the heat of a North Carolina summer sun students from across the nation put on their hard hats and got a taste of the engineering field. The construction shop at Courthouse Bay utilized by Marine Corps Engineers School (MCES) was host to 48 high school students participating in a Society of American Military Engineers Engineering (SAME) STEM Camp. The camp is one of six across the country at various installations which gives students a look into the reality of a military engineering job.
“Our focus is on exposing these students to the engineering profession with hands on activities,” said Kyle Compton, a structural engineer from Vaughn and Melton Consulting in New Bern, North Carolina. “I want to teach them the professional aspects of real world engineering. Things like teamwork and the design process.”
During a June 24 activity, students were tasked with designing and building beams from concrete and rebar. Students started out in the classroom where they were given an introduction to the subject and tasked with working through their designs in five squads. Each team was assigned an enlisted Marine as their squad leader as well as two mentors, either SAME engineers or Naval and Marine Corps officers.
“I work in the role of an agency and they act as a firm,” Compton said. “They have to pitch their design and then go out and build it.”
That meant putting together molds made of wood to form concrete and rebar into the most durable beam possible. According to Compton, the team based structure is one for students who want to show they’re the best.
“It’s very competitive,” Compton said.
The beams students constructed on Monday will be tested on Thursday when a 7-ton transport truck drives over them with one wheel. The beam which can handle the most pressure and lasts the longest wins.
U.S. Navy Ensign Tanis Bernier, Regional Officer in Charge of Construction (ROICC), Marine Corps Air Station New River, saw his role as a mentor as one that would give students perspective.
“As a mentor I just want them to learn something and have fun,” Bernier said. “Anything I can pass on about my Navy service or construction experience that helps them I am willing to do. That and keeping them safe, of course.”
U.S. Navy Lt. Chris Lambert, ROICC, MCAS New River, is in his second year of assisting with the camp and sees students desire to compete and build as somewhat refreshing.
“It’s entertaining, that’s for sure,” Lambert said.
The students also learned lessons that are applicable to fields of any sort in the first day of the camp.
“I learned the importance of voicing your opinion,” said Sawyer Gann, a rising junior from Covenant Classical School in Concord, N.C. “Our first project, we had to put a wheelbarrow together. I noticed early on that we put a piece on wrong and I didn’t say anything. If I had, we would have done it the right way.”
Gann says the event has also helped put some of his future plans in perspective.
“When I was a kid messing around in my dad’s workshop, I always liked taking stuff apart,” Gann said. “I’m thinking of joining the military.”
Heather Wishart-Smith, president elect for SAME, was grateful to MCB Camp Lejeune for providing space, resources and personnel to make the camp possible.
“We really appreciate Lejeune and the mentors supporting us,” Wishart-Smith said. “Ideally all these kids would become military engineers.”
Jose Velazquez, who operates the construction shop at Courthouse Bay, sees camps like these as a big step for future engineers and those going into construction.
“It’s good to see these young people come out and put their mind to something,” Velazquez said. “They’re our future.”