“Young Minds Explore Engineering” summer camp

Each year, children of all ages and interests participate in summer camps. Some camps focus on sports and fitness, while others may focus on volunteerism or religion. In addition to special interests, summer camp can also be a place where students continue their educational experience. Lyles College of Engineering “Young Minds Explore Engineering” summer camps are geared toward familiarizing students with the engineering and construction management professions.

California High Speed Rail

California High Speed Rail rendering

This year, Lyles College of Engineering hosted more than 70 middle and high school students between the weeks of June 20 to July 1. The first week was dedicated toward middle school students and the second week high school students – both camps focused on the development of California’s high speed rail system.

“Throughout engineering history there have been major projects that produced tremendous benefits to society. Projects like the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, Interstate Highway system, have changed for the better the economic prospects of large populations through several generations,” said Dr. Jesus Larralde, associate dean of the Lyles College. “The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) project is one of such projects, which will not only improve the mobility along California, but also will reduce the amount of exhaust emissions and congestion in our main freeways and major airports.”


Fresno State’s E.D.G.E. Ropes Course

Students began each camp with three-hours of team building activities at Fresno State’s EDGE Ropes Course, followed by a workshop with Dr. Larralde which focused on transportation engineering. Scott Peterson, geomatics engineering professor, took students out of the classroom and showed them around the Fresno State campus where they learned about geomatics  and the use of global positioning systems (GPS).

Dr. Lalita Oka, civil and geomatics engineering professor, and Lyles College graduate students helped campers discover soil foundations and how soils influence the design and layout of high-speed rail tracks.


Professor Peterson teaching students about geomatics engineering

While high speed rail was the main focus of the camp, students also took trips to the finest engineering research and development laboratories in the nation – National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Mountain View and Edwards.

“We saw all of the different simulations of all the previous projects that they’ve completed at NASA,” said, Trevor Amarante, Fowler High School sophomore. “It was especially cool to see the one they used for the moon landing.”

At NASA, high school campers also learned about a high-speed, low-cost, elevated Personal Rapid Transportation (PRT) system called skyTran. The futuristic looking PRT uses magnetic levitation, rather than wheels. Karol Joseph “Bo” Bobko talked to students about his three adventures into space. “Bo” is an aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer & former USAF & NASA astronaut.

“It was really interesting because he had gone in the simulators and described how it feels to actually be in space,” Amarante said. “While in the simulators, all of the motions and the screens show what you would be seeing if you were really out there. Bo said it was pretty much the same as being in space.”

High School Students at NASA

High School Students at NASA

In the days following, Mechanical Engineering Professors, Drs. Deify Law and The Nguyen discussed dynamic modeling, design and aerodynamics and how they pertain to the high-speed rail.

“The realization of a large engineering project like the California High-Speed Rail requires the inventive and creative skills of many engineers and from many disciplines, including civil, mechanical, electrical, computer and geomatics engineering as well as construction management,” Dr. Larralde explained.


Hot Wheels track competition

Fresno State alumnus and computer engineer, Watson Tungjunyatham, showed students how electronics and control systems can be programmed to provide automation for high-speed rail. Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Ajith Weerasinghe, helped students create solar panels to develop energy. Each camp included a car and track design competition led by Walter Mizuno, faculty member from mechanical engineering and a talk from a high speed rail expert.

Gladys Guzman, Lyles College civil engineering alumnus and CHSRA senior transportation engineer, along with Benjamin Camarena, design and construction manager for CHSRA, gave in-depth talks about the high speed rail which is scheduled for completion in 2029.


Benjamin Camarena, California High Speed Rail Authority

“It will be done in about 10-years and in about 10-years, these kids will be about 18, 19, or 20. They will be the ones who use the high speed rail system,” Camarena said. “It’s great for them to hear about it now, then they can see it develop. And, hopefully they’ll become engineers and help us design the rest of the system. We are very short on engineers in the nation so getting these kids interested in the eighth, ninth, tenth grade is awesome.”

The goal of the Lyles College camps is to open the minds of students who may be interested in pursuing careers in engineering and construction management. By allowing them to explore their options, meet people in the field and get hands-on experience, they may have a better chance of making an educated decision as they begin their college careers.

“This is one of the best camps that I’ve been to,” Amarante said. “I think it’s really helped me decide on what career I want to go into and how I can go about doing that and as of right now, I’m very interested in mechanical and electrical engineering.”