Potential future engineers headed into 10th, 11th and 12th grade across Tennessee in fall have been spending the week of July 16-23 on Tennessee Tech University’s campus at the annual Explorations in Engineering and Computing Camp.
During their time on campus, students have been hearing from Tech professors and industry professionals, as well as working on hands-on experiments and activities that have familiarized them with the seven engineering and computing programs at Tech: chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, manufacturing and engineering technology, and mechanical engineering.
“Tech was on my radar for colleges, but what really made me decide I wanted to go here was that engineering camp,” said Zak Henson, current Tech mechanical engineering sophomore from Jackson, Tenn.
Henson attended the camp himself back in 2020 and volunteered to be a counselor at this year’s camp. When Henson attended the camp as a high school student, everything was virtual due to the pandemic, however the classes still encouraged his love of engineering with group projects in things like cybersecurity and bridge building.
“On one project we were sent software for a bridge-building simulator,” Henson recalls. “You could choose what material you’re building with, the size of the material, the length of the material and stuff like that. We were challenged to build a working bridge that was safe but still cost effective. It was about trying to find that balance.”
Fellow camp counselor and current Tech mechanical engineering student Andre Braden – a junior from Hendersonville, Tenn. – attend the camp as a highschooler as well and remembers the professors, students and business professionals he met during his week on campus.
“I love the talks that we had when I was here for my camp,” he said. “We had the engineers come in and talk to us about what they did and how Tech helped them and it was really eye opening to the engineering field. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the speakers coming this year. They were really great when I when I was a camper here.”
Tech computer engineering sophomore, Ashli Watkins from Jackson, Tenn., is also looking forward to working as a counselor with the students this year after going through the camp herself several years back.
“I suppose what made me want to get involved was the connections that I made due to this program and how attending the program as a camper helped me find my ‘aha’ moment in looking for that major that I felt would make me enjoy not only my days in college, but after it as well,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of helping others in finding their passion, whether they realize that it is engineering or that it isn’t in engineering.”
Watkins is a Multicultural Affairs ambassador, a Women of Worth committee member, and the chair for the national Society of Black Engineers’ Technical Outreach Community Help (TORCH) program. She is working toward a career in either software development or artificial intelligence and has enjoyed being able to share her experience with high school students considering going into engineering as well.
“Tennessee Tech is known to be one of the top engineering colleges in Tennessee, but it also provided a not-so-far away home away from home,” Watkins said. “When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to be at least two hours away from home to get a taste of freedom that I had not experienced before, and Tech met that distance criteria along with the scholarships and education I knew that I would gain for a reasonable tuition.”
“I’m really thankful for the camp and all the connections I made,” Henson added. “And that’s also another reason why I wanted to come back as a counselor – as a way to give back. High school is such an important point in someone’s life. That when you’re really developing and really figuring out who you are. Being able to help them through that, it’s just fantastic.”
For more information about the Explorations in Engineering and Computing Camp, visit https://www.tntech.edu/engineering/outreach/eec.php.