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WVU Engineering Challenge Camps help long-time camper discover his passion

Max Kemp-Rye at the Engineering in Service Camp 2017

Kemp-Rye's final camp at WVU was the 2017 Engineering in Service Challenge Camp. 

The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources launched its first series of engineering camps at West Virginia University in the summer of 2012, as a way to introduce grade-school students to the field of engineering through an immersive on-campus experience.


“We started hosting camps to fill a need,” said Cate Schlobohm, Statler College outreach program coordinator. “Parents would call and ask if there were any summer opportunities for their kids and we kept saying no. So we decided to organize a camp and if it went well we wanted to keep doing it.”

During the first year of the program, the College offered three camps that were attended by 37 students. Just six years later, hundreds of students from all across the country flocked to Morgantown to attend one of the 14 themed Engineering Challenge Camps now offered.

“Over the years, our camps have evolved in many ways,” said Schlobohm. “We have amazing sponsors who believe in our mission and help support us monetarily and we have developed themes to meet campers’ interest as well as expanded our overall number of camp options. The camps now run efficiently, campers have a blast and we produce an experience that we are proud of.”

While the program has evolved in many ways over the years the one thing that has remained constant has been the attendance of Max Kemp-Rye, the only student to attend all six years of the program.

Kemp-Rye attended his first engineering camp in the sixth grade after his grandfather, Emory Kemp, a former civil engineering professor at the University, encouraged him to attend.

“In elementary school I was always interested in science and my grandfather really wanted me to become an engineer so I decided to go to one of the camps,” said Kemp-Rye. “I remember my favorite thing that first year was making a spaghetti bridge. We made a bridge out of a bunch of different kinds of pasta, which was a really fun mixture of team building and learning about structures and how different building designs work. It was the best camp I had ever been too.”

Kemp-Rye has been attending the camps ever since and recently traded in his spaghetti bridge for the real deal. During the Engineering in Service Camp, held on July 16-21, Kemp-Rye and his fellow campers spent a day building foot bridges at Mason Dixon Park, along with completing several other community service projects throughout the week. 

“The best thing about the engineering camps at WVU is that they are never boring,” said Kemp-Rye “The College is constantly coming up with new camp topics so there’s always something new and exciting to try.”

Over the years, Kemp-Rye has attended nearly every discipline of camp that the College offers with his favorite being the Engineering in Action Camp, a program that teaches students the correlation between sports and science.

“The camp was amazing because I really like to play sports and of course I liked engineering, too,” he said. ”It was amazing to see how sports and other recreational activities time into engineering. I liked it so much that I went to the camp twice!”

As he heads into his senior year of high school this fall, Kemp-Rye will age out of the engineering camping program but hopes to stay involved with the camps once he is in college. The Morgantown native plans to stay close to home to attend WVU, but surprisingly not to study engineering.

“Engineering will always have a special place in my heart but I plan to major in education so I can teach science to high school-age students,” said Kemp-Rye. “I’ve watched the counselors influence myself and other campers for many years and I’d like to have the same opportunity to help young people discover what they want to do when they get older and to show kids the fun behind science.”

As he works to become an educator, Kemp-Rye hopes to put his abundance of camping experience to use working as a counselor for the program.

“These camps have affected me and my decisions and they’ve made such a positive impact on my life,” said Kemp-Rye. “During the high school camps you get to spend an entire week with counselors who are already college students. Campers get to see what it’s like to be on a college campus and can really learn from the counselors what to do during their freshman year to start their college career off well. Becoming a counselor for the program will allow me to give back to younger kids and I look forward to giving them the same opportunities I had as a camper.”

Schlobohm and her team look forward to watching Kemp-Rye grow as a student at WVU and can’t wait to welcome him back as a counselor.

“We have watched Max grow into a leader throughout his time attending camp and his expertise will be invaluable in developing camp curriculums for future summers,” said Schlobohm. “He has always had a natural curiosity and desire to learn, but in the past couple of summers, I have seen him push others to explore and learn as well. As a science educator, Max will help other students develop their interests, and hopefully he will help produce future engineers, scientists and researchers from his classes.”



For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135