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WVU hosts inaugural Civil Engineering Challenge Camp

A photo of two girls building a city out of Legos.

Campers built environmentally friendly cities out of Legos.

The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University hosted its inaugural Civil Engineering Challenge Camp on June 27-29.

The pilot camp, titled Lego Learning Lab: Planning Cities, introduced six elementary school students to basic civil engineering principles by challenging them to build an environmentally friendly city out of Legos. They also incorporated water management systems into their design.

“There were two goals of this camp,” said Claire McDonald, a civil engineering major from Morgantown and a camp counselor. “The first was to promote civil engineering and bring awareness to the fact that civil engineers do more than just build bridges. They also design buildings, create water systems and much more. The second goal was to make sure that campers had a basic understanding of how cities get their water and also how those systems can be affected during natural disasters.”

Students were divided into groups that crafted two cities: one based at an inland location and the other along the coast.

“The two groups made two very different city plans,” said Antar Jutla, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. ”One group decided that their city would be powered using windmills and the other decided to borrow power from them to make their city more energy efficient.”

The campers also incorporated civil engineering principles into their designs by placing some of their buildings on stilts to protect them in the event of natural disasters such as coastal flooding.

“The students came up with some thoughtful ideas for their cities, which showed us that they really grasped the basic concepts we taught them throughout the camp,” added McDonald. “It was great to see them be so innovative.”

According to Hema Siriwardane , chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, training the next generation of civil engineers is becoming increasingly more important.

“There is an abundance of issues related to clean water, population growth and the need for infrastructure development in the country and throughout the world so it’s good to get children involved when they are young,” said Siriwardane. “Hosting the Civil Engineering Challenge Camp was a great idea because it helps the intellectual growth of young children in general but it also helps them to think of the real-world applications of civil and environmental engineering.”

The Statler College plans to add the civil engineering camp to their list of annual Engineering Challenge Camps offered on campus in hopes of inspiring the next generation of civil engineers.

“My objective is to introduce students to information about civil infrastructure and how it relates to their daily lives because we need the best and brightest people in the profession of civil engineering,” said Jutla. “Being able to show the students how civil and environmental engineering is useful in a way that allowed them to learn while having fun was by far the best outcome of the camp, and something we plan to continue.”

WVU’s Engineering Challenge Camps are co-sponsored by the Statler College and EQT, and are sponsored in part by Halliburton and Eaton.



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