For curious kids who love to tinker and take things apart and then put them back together again, UIC Engineering Experience Camp is just the place for summer hands-on engineering exploration and fun. Held on the University of Illinois Chicago campus in real university research and teaching labs, this is an engineering camp that gives rising fourth- through 12th-grade students the chance to sample a variety of engineering disciplines.
“We have five days of camp and five engineering departments represented,” says Zhinan Wang, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor in the Richard and Loan Hill Department of Biomedical Engineering at UIC and the Director of 2022 UIC Engineering Experience Camp.
Throughout the week, campers will engage in project and design challenges in the disciplines of Biomedical, Chemical, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Students are grouped according to grade level for week-long camps designed specifically for their age. All camps are designed and led by researchers in engineering education, faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students with backgrounds in STEM and engineering tutoring.
“Our Engineering Experience Camps are great for kids who are interested in engineering in general,” says Dr. Wang. “These are kids who want to make things and there is always teamwork required.”
Kids can be shy or introverted and that’s OK, says Dr. Wang. “We have many roles in a team, including the builder, the painter, the code writer, the presenter and the coordinator,” he explains.
Camps are designed to be hands-on from the beginning, with no lectures, says Dr. Wang. “Every day, campers will get their hands dirty and will be working in the actual college-level teaching and research labs,” he says, adding that among STEM-focused summer camp programs, the chance to work in real lab environments surrounded by faculty members and college students is a rare treat.
“The experience is like a novel of engineering with different chapters. Each day has its own focal point. Kids will really enjoy the camp if they like to make, modify and optimize things, test new ideas and share these ideas with each other,” Dr. Wang says. “Parents sometimes worry that the camps are too academic or too dry. This is not a lecture series; campers should be prepared to come and make things that they will take home.”
The youngest students will focus on the fun aspects of engineering from a perspective of “how things work” and the older students will spend time planning thoughts and designs and presenting them, while learning more about engineering career paths. What this camp is not, Dr. Wang says, is summer school. “There’s no lecturing!” he says.
The entire camp experience returns after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, and this year will be the first that chemical engineering will be included, as its move to the new Engineering Innovation Building on campus is complete. “The building has a modern design and high-level equipment in the student labs,” Dr. Wang says.
Kind of like college
Parents — especially those of middle and high school students — love that the camp is held right on the UIC campus because it gives kids the opportunity to see what life as a college student is all about. From having lunch in the cafeteria to being surrounded by engineering grad students and faculty, kids can play the role of a college student for a week in a safe environment where they are treated as young adults.
“It’s a full-immersion experience on the university campus,” Dr. Wang says.
Parents can rest assured that UIC is an environment that prioritizes personal safety. Camp organizers, and the entire campus, follow best practices and guidance from CDC, state and local health departments to keep everyone safe and secure.
Learn more about UIC Engineering Experience Camp and register at engineering.uic.edu.