The next generation of homegrown engineers experimented their way into learning about wind energy, bridge building and electrical circuits during a summer science camp that was held at Georgetown Middle School. 

Kate Attias participated in the CreatEng summer camp July 16-19. The Georgetown School for Arts and Sciences student said she learned a lot during the first day, which focused on creating wind turbines to generate electricity.

"It's hands-on, not just learning about things," said Attias, a rising 9th grader at the Georgetown School for Arts and Sciences. "Instead of just putting a picture up on the board and looking at it, you actually get to do it."

She worked with Dane MacMillan and Matthew Allen, both rising 8th graders at Waccamaw Middle School. Their team used balsa wood, which is a light-weight wood used for model airplanes, and shaped them like machete blades.

"Our first design was blocky, which caught the wind, but it wasn't tilted right," Attias said. "Our second design is more blade-like and has a sharper edge for maximum speed."

The day camp for rising 8th and 9th graders was offered by the Governor's School for Science and Mathematics and sponsored by Boeing. Stacy Weeks, onsite camp coordinator at GMS, said the goal of the camp — held in six locations throughout South Carolina — is to promote the next generation of homegrown engineers.

"We show them what engineering is about as a career choice, to give them different avenues to pursue," she said. "They learn about attention to detail, good communication skills, problem-solving skills and being able to be a team player."

On the first day, students created their wind turbines using a variety of materials — card stock, cardboard and balsa wood — to generate electricity. They worked in teams to decide the size, shape, angle and number of blades that would generate the maximum voltage.

"They put the hub of their turbine on a spike, which is hooked to a small meter, in front of a fan." Weeks said. "If wind from the fan makes the turbine blow, the meter shows how much electricity is generated."

Other students said they learned valuable lessons from the wind turbine activity. Jenna Baker, a rising 8th grader at Waccamaw Middle School said she and Hannah Altman, a rising 9th grader at Carolina Academy in Lake City, said their first blade design was too heavy.

"We wanted them to be longer, so we put them on the end of a stick so they can be longer without extra weight," Baker said.

Leah Britton, a rising 9th grader at Georgetown High School who was working with A.J. Cole, a rising 9th grader at Waccamaw High School, said she learned a lot about working on a team in the camp. She added that they made a lot of changes to their design during the wind turbine activity.

"We changed materials, changed the angle, and made it more straight, but now it catches more wind," she said.

Chase Sheedy, a rising 8th grader at Waccamaw Middle School, was working with Arissa Staggers, a rising 9th grader at Carvers Bay High School. He said they learned that balsa wood was the best material for the blades.

"It is mainly about the size and the angle they are turned, to catch the wind," Sheedy said. "You can't have them flat or it won't catch any wind."

Molly Tate, a rising 9th grader at Lowcountry Preparatory School in Pawleys Island who was working with Tatum Smoak, a rising 8th grader at Coastal Montessori Charter School, learned about how to shape the blades.

"The shape of it can help how fast it spins," Tate said. "We bent ours a little bit to make it concave."

Other days during the camp featured building bridges, creating circuits and using circuits in heart monitors. Atilla Uregen, one of the instructors for the camp, said it is a good opportunity for students to find out more about engineering in a non-threatening environment.

"You get to reach out to kids that normally don’t get to do this in the regular classroom," he said. "It gives them the opportunity to do hands-on activities and see how things work. They aren’t doing this for a grade and don’t have to pass the class, so it allows an open dialogue between the teacher and students."