Local Science Camp a “First” on the West Coast
June 29, 2011 (San Diego) -- Last week, 150 elementary school children in San Diego County were attending a new kind of summer camp -- the “Summer Engineering Experience for Kids” (SEEK) Camp, 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. Students will learn, have fun, and experiment with technology during the three-week day camp on campus at San Diego State University (SDSU). To demonstrate what they’ve learned, the kids will take part in “competitions” each Friday during the camp to show off to family and friends what they’ve learned and/or built. The competitions will be held at the Parma Payne Alumni Center on the SDSU campus from noon to 2 p.m. June, July 1 and July 8.
“One of the great joys of education is when we see students get excited about something new,” said Dr. 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."
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.
“Technology is transforming the energy industry and changing the kinds of skill sets utilities will need in their workforce,” said Jessie J. Knight, Jr., chief executive officer for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). “As we begin to navigate the new frontier of the smart grid, the door is open to all kinds of possibilities. We hope some of the best and brightest future graduates will choose a career with SDG&E, but we also know we need to start now to engage them in science and engineering. The SEEK camp helps make that happen.”
SDG&E, through its parent company’s Sempra Energy Foundation, contributed a $50,000 grant to support the summer camp. Other potential future employers, energy developers NRG, Inc. and Calpine, along with Southern California Edison, provided financial support for the San Diego SEEK camp. The Urban League of San Diego was instrumental in getting the word out to local schools to make sure kids and their parents were aware of this summer’s SEEK camp.
“The support of so many generous partners is integral to the success of the SEEK program, but it also is evidence of our nation’s need to rebuild its technological dominance by encouraging more young people to go into science, technology, engineering or mathematics as a career,” said Carl B. Mack, executive director of NSBE. Mack is leading NSBE’s efforts to have a SEEK camp in every state in the U.S