Summer Kids – Get them early
FAU sponsors summer camps for middle schoolers on campus. The camps are a week long. The kids come it and learn about some aspect of civil engineering. I did two summer camps for civil engineers – I call it the make it and break it camps, because that is what we do. Make stuff, then break it. The kids love the breaking part. We tried out a series of project – dropping eggs from 2 and 5 stories, concrete Frisbees, concrete cylinders, geotechnical fill made of recyclables, did a little surveying, made bridge. Then broke stuff! They had fun, but it really speaks to a larger issue.
I see the University of Miami recruiting an 8th grader for the football team. College and pro sports do this all the time (recall they were scouting LeBron James in middle school or earlier). Why do we not do this in our industry? Getting middle schoolers on campus is great; they think it is really cool, but we need to keep in contact. Future camps, seminars, invitations for research participation, helping with clubs, offering classes, mentoring. All things we need to do to track the kids right into the college and the industry. If an FAU professor mentors you and puts your name on a paper, you think that kids is going elsewhere?
Sports sees money in athletes, but because only the athletics are spending money, it makes the athletes seem more important than other professions. But we all need water. We all need sewer. We all need many things we take for granted. So perhaps the colleges and industry needs to think about how we elevate our profession to those kids we want to have become part of our organization. Most do not have the talent to play sports, so get left out. But I am convinced that middle school is the place to start recruiting them our way. High school is too late and they are too distracted by “life.” Middle schoolers can be “formed” into future water professionals. Let’s think on that.
Meanwhile enjoy their work….