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Camp Aims To Get San Diego Students Excited About Science

Evening Edition

Aired 6/29/12 on KPBS News.

School may be out, but that’s not keeping a group of kids in San Diego from expanding their minds.

— This summer kids in San Diego are doing things like designing and racing solar cars, in a program designed to get them excited about science and engineering. Outside the alumni center at San Diego State University, groups of kids crowded around a race track of sorts as teams compete to see whose solar car can go the farthest or carry the most weight.

Malia Hueitt, age 10, is one of 300 kids taking part in the second annual SEEK camp at San Diego State. SEEK stands for Summer Engineering Experience for Kids. The camp is one of several around the country put on by the National Society of Black Engineers. It’s aimed at introducing minority children to engineering. Malia said she’s always liked science and her favorite part of camp is actually building the cars.

“All the teams come together and we start building, but then we’ll have a problem,” she said. “But then we’ll fix it and we’ll decide what to do with it and it all works out.”

Malia and her fellow campers are mentored by college students who are majoring in science and engineering. They help the kids understand how things like solar powered cars work and then they help them design, build and race their own creations.

National Society of Black Engineers Executive Director Dr. Carl B. Mack said of the roughly 60,000 to 70,000 engineers that graduate from universities every year, only about 3,100 are African American.

“What I believe is, in our community, the reason most of our children gravitate to athletes and entertainment is because that’s what they’re exposed to at a very early age and they’re exposed to it often,” he said. “So what we said is, let us redefine A&E from athletics and entertainment to academic excellence. So let’s expose our kids, as early as third grade, to engineering, to science, to math.”

And Mack said giving the kids hands on projects lets them see those lessons in action.

It’s been a successful model locally. This year’s camp is double the size of last year’s, and Mack says San Diego is a model for what all the SEEK camps should be.

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