UA SITE camp hosts 150 high school students


The University of Alabama hosted the 25th annual SITE camp for rising high school juniors and seniors interested in mathematics, engineering, science, and technology. CW | Danielle Parker

Christian Elliott

The SITE camp is not like a typical summer camp for high school students. They do not sleep in tents and conduct daily outdoor excursions; instead the students are engaged within an academic environment where they are exposed to daily routines consisting of mathematics, engineering, science and technology.

Greg Singleton, director of Engineering Services as well as the Multicultural Engineering Program, directs the camp. He has been involved with the camp since its beginning more than 25 years ago. The camp is run by six counselors who are engineering majors, each coming from a particular engineering department.

“The purpose is to give students an idea of what engineering is all about,” Singleton said. “They take three academic courses: an English course, a pre-calculus course, and a computer science course. They also do a type of engineering project, in which they create some sort of catapult-type launchers out of house hold materials.”

Throughout the week, the students are able to visit the Mercedes-Benz plant to get a better understanding of what engineers do within their profession. The students go on tours throughout all the fields of engineering that are found within The University of Alabama and have a workshop within each field (aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering and computer science). The department head within each field of study gives the students an overview, and then they get a tour of the labs and the research project of what each department does. The students also visit the admissions office and take a tour of the University while attending the camp.

Each day they are placed in groups to design a catapult. At the end of the week, there is a competition in the Shelby Quad to see which team’s catapult can launch a golf ball the farthest. The winning team is rewarded at the closing ceremony of the camp. There are awards given out at the end of the camp for the top three boys and girls within each of the academic courses. There is also another award given out to the top boy and girl at the camp. This award is determined by the student’s participation within the camp, how active they are, their leadership skills and how each student copes with others while at 
the camp.

“The students get to find real application for the math that they learn in school,” said Marcus Ashford, associate professor of engineering. “The math you get in school, you might be presented a problem and analyze something that is already set up. It is a completely different design process by taking that same math and those same principles and to build something from scratch, and build it out of a bunch of yard sticks and bungee cords. They start the process without knowing what the objective would be or what the materials would be. We kind of throw loops at them to make them fall back on not solving the problems, but knowing and understanding the physics behind the problem.”

While at the camp, the students realize life and textbooks are only loosely related. Over the span of a week the students are not only engaged within a classroom environment, but they are also placed within an engineering atmosphere in which they must apply themselves in the realm 
of engineering.