July 19, 2016

Rising high school juniors from around the region came together last week to practice essential skills for the next two years: communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

These students, coming from Danville, Martinsville, Henry County, and Pittsylvania County, are preparing to start the Academy for Engineering and Technology (AET) program in the fall. Students from Danville and Pittsylvania County will attend AET courses at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) while students from Martinsville and Henry County will attend courses at New College Institute (NCI).

AET is a dual enrollment program for high school juniors and seniors to earn both high school and university credits from Virginia State University (VSU). This program is offered at no cost to students accepted into the program.

During this recent, week-long camp, which is called Engineering Fundaments, students came together to practice the engineering approach to problem-solving through various activities. Students also participated in industry and community tours to explore engineering opportunities close to home. Tours included visits to the STAGS robotics lab, Dalton IDEA Center, Tyton Bioenergy Systems, Engineered Biopharmaceuticals, and Bassett Furniture Design Center. The week culminated with student presentations and a robot dance party competition using newly acquired programming skills.

During their final presentations, many of the students felt that one of the most valuable aspects of Engineering Fundamentals was their newfound friendships with students across the school districts. “I really enjoyed working in groups with new people and seeing how well we functioned together. We developed a camaraderie through the various challenges and all shared a willingness to learn together,” said Preston Painter, rising junior at Carlisle School.

Other students enjoyed local industry tours as they learned about engineering careers within Southside Virginia. “My favorite part of Engineering Fundamentals was touring the local industries. I didn’t realize that there were so many engineering jobs available in our community,” shared Logan Thacker, rising junior at Magna Vista High School.

While the students were not touring industries, they were taking on various challenges such as the Balloon Chair Challenge. Tunstall High School student Kelci Pool found this to be one of her favorite activities of the camp. “I had never heard of this challenge. It was cool to work together in teams and practice preparing for unique problems within engineering,” said Pool.

Libby Sharp, AET instructor at the IALR site, explained the main goals of Engineering Fundamentals at the culminating luncheon. These goals included establishing teamwork among the two AET cohorts (NCI and IALR), introducing the engineering mindset that these students will utilize in the next two years of the courses within AET, and finally, introducing students to local engineering opportunities through tours and visits.  

 For more information about AET, please contact NCI at (276) 403-5610.