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Lamar hosts introduction to engineering for middle school students

LITE Group PhotoFifty students are expected to participate in the Lamar Introduction to Engineering (L.I.T.E.) summer program, hosted by Lamar University’s College of Engineering July 20-24, 2015. The free one-week non-residential camp serves incoming seventh- and eighth-grade students who excel in mathematics and science. This program is partially funded by a grant through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, ExxonMobil and BASF Corp.

“The goal of L.I.T.E. is to introduce middle school students to STEM disciplines early in their education so they feel confident in their decision to choose a suitable endorsement when transitioning into high school,” said Tracy Benson, associate professor of chemical engineering and camp program leader. “Lamar University is proud to have this program here on campus. We get a lot of support from our industrial partners and the surrounding community, and that’s what will continue to make it a success.”

The program begins with hands-on activities to familiarize participants with different disciplines of engineering. They will engage in discussions to identify potential problems and decide how an engineer would approach a solution. Throughout the week, participants will work in teams to compete in the ExxonMobil Trebuchet Design Challenge to design, build and operate a trebuchet within the prescribed specifications. “Through this challenge, we hope to enhance problem-solving skills and learn the value of trial-error testing, trouble shooting and teamwork,” Benson said. At the end of the program, students will present a culmination of results that stem from the design challenge.

“We hope that each student can walk away with more knowledge about engineering and choose STEM as a potential field of interest in their future,” Benson said. “It is also our goal to follow these students through high school. We would like to see each of these students graduate ready to pursue post-secondary education in engineering or other STEM fields.”

The program’s partners are ExxonMobil, BASF Corp., Energy Museum, Edison Museum and Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME). Each of the partners offers the students a real opportunity to learn about engineering and science in many ways. Both museum tours educate students on the history of energy, energy resources, innovation and importance of STEM education through interactive exhibits. Participants will also get the opportunity to have lunch with various Industry representatives each day. “The industrial representatives are experts in their fields,” Benson said. “Several topics of discussion will be provided to each table in order to encourage engagement from the students. The students really gain good exposure to what engineering is all about.”

The camp will end with a BASF corp. sponsored activity. Students will get the opportunity to tour TAME’s traveling science trailer named the “Trailblazer.”  The Trailblazer provides students with exciting, hands-on exhibits that teaches students about energy, space, weather, biotechnology, and aerodynamics while also introducing them to educational and career opportunities in STEM.

More information on the L.I.T.E. summer program is available by contacting or call 409-880-8714.