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Local Kids Go Crazy for Engineering

The summer camp, designed to steer more minority children to engineering careers, is the first of its kind in California.
Students from SEEK camp's fifth grade class
Students from SEEK camp's fifth grade class

Get 150 kids in a room and ask them to cheer, and you know it will be loud. But who would expect a deafening roar when they’re cheering about engineering?  

The infectious enthusiasm that filled SDSU’s Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center was caused by a unique summer camp taking place at San Diego State.

Engineering the future

The "Summer Engineering Experience for Kids" (SEEK) Camp is a concept designed by the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) in 2007 to build a pipeline to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for African-American and other under-represented minority children. The San Diego SEEK camp is the first of its kind on the West Coast, while another SEEK camp begins later this month in Oakland, Calif. 

"One of the great joys of education is when we see students get excited about something new," said James R. Kitchen, SDSU's vice president for student affairs. "The SEEK Camp exposes students every day to things they've never seen or done before. You can see the excitement in their eyes. And, hopefully, some of them are being inspired to pursue careers in the STEM fields as they move forward with their education."

The students, who are third- to fifth-graders, come primarily from San Diego County. They were informed about the camp thanks to the Urban League's assistance in promoting it through their networks. Students were registered on a first-come, first-served basis, and, with additional financial support, the goal is to expand registration in future years.  

Weekly competitions

During the three-week day camp, SEEK students will learn, have fun and experiment with technology. They will also take part in "competitions" each Friday during the camp to show off to family and friends what they've learned and built.

A fundamental aspect of the SEEK program is that NSBE collegiate members serve as mentors to the campers.  College students from a number of schools will travel to San Diego to be mentors and will stay in the SDSU dorms for the duration of the SEEK camp.

Carl B. Mack, executive director of NSBE, pointed out that there were roughly the same amount of girls as boys signed up for the camp – a fact that he celebrated by wearing a pink tie, which he exclaimed was for girl power.

Community support 

The San Diego SEEK camp was made possible through the support of:

•    San Diego State University
•    SDG&E and its parent company's Sempra Energy Foundation
•    NRG, Inc.
•    Calpine
•    Southern California Edison
•    The Urban League of San Diego
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