Summer of science

Middle schoolers learn robotics, more at Del Mar camp

For most middle school students in Corpus Christi, the start of summer vacation is spent at the beach, by the pool, or simply enjoying life beyond the classroom. But for 40 Corpus Christi middle schoolers, their first month of summer vacation was spent learning about robotics and engineering at Del Mar College’s Oso Creek Campus.

On July 18, Del Mar bookended this year’s TexPREP camp with competitions covering robotics, architectural design and structural engineering.

For six weeks starting on June 5, the students undertook rigorous instruction and coursework five days a week. In these classes, they learned logic, problem solving, physics and linear coding.

They then put these newfound skills to the test by participating in a robot race, where they designed and programed robots that could autonomously maneuver through a short track. The robots were then judged and scored by professional engineers from the camp’s sponsor, Flint Hills Resources.

Other competitions included the design, construction and stress testing of a bridge out of plastic straws; the design and construction of remote-controlled boats; and the designing of architectural models.

Due to weather conditions and the presence of protected wildlife, a planned race involving the boats was cancelled. The boats were still judged based on aesthetic and design by a professional architect.

Winners for each competition were declared during a graduation celebration held the following day on July 19.

The Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program, or TexPREP is a statewide program to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and encourage middle school and high school students to study and pursue careers in these fields. The program was started in 1979 at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the Del Mar College program began in 2000.

The summer program is free and has an application process open to students enrolled in the sixth grade or higher at the time of enrollment. The application process typically looks for students with a good citizen record and A averages in math, science and English.

The program is open to all students that meet the requirements but seeks out students that would be first-generation college students or are from demographics that are underrepresented in STEM fields.

The application for next summer will open in early 2024. More information on the program and the application process can be found HERE.

Del Mar college’s TexPREP program is supported by some of the college’s local industry and agency partners. At this year’s bookend, Flint Hills Resources was commemorated after 11 years of support and approximately $170,000 in funding. Other supporters include Citgo, the Coastal Bend Foundation and TxDOT.

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