CEE summer camp highlights societal challenges, solutions


CEE at Illinois recently hosted a group of bright, talented high school students for a week-long summer camp.

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Assistant professor Vishal Verma, right, helps students build air quality sensors.

CEE at Illinois recently hosted a group of bright, talented high school students for a weeklong summer camp through the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program at The Grainger College of Engineering. One of many WYSE camps held on campus this summer, the CEE camp introduced the students to the ways in which civil and environmental engineers are addressing societal challenges.

Throughout the week, campers learned about a wide range of topics that impact society including climate change, air quality, safe and sound structures, and innovative construction methods. To illustrate these issues and how civil and environmental engineers are tackling them, CEE faculty and graduate students led the campers through hands-on projects, lab demonstrations and discussions.  

In a session on monitoring air quality led by assistant professor Vishal Verma, for example, students learned basic fluid mechanics principles for designing simple particulate matter samplers, then built their own to take back to their rooms. After sampling the local ambient air in their residences, the campers brought the air filters back to a second session later in the week in order to analyze the results. Verma said the students learned the importance of clean air quality and the methods to measure it, as well as how the effects of bad air quality could affect human health.  

Students worked outside for a few hours to get experience in generating electricity from renewable energy sources by using different solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen generation stations. Voltmeters and amperemeters were used to measure the electrical output depending on the solar activity throughout the day and generated wind speeds.
Students learn how to generate hydrogen from water using electricity produced by solar panels and wind turbines

In a separate session and activity led by assistant professor Roman Makhnenko, campers learned about the benefits and limitations of renewable energy resources.

“Students worked in groups outside to perform experiments with solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells,” Makhnenko said. “Then they processed and presented the data and debated on the advantages of using different renewable energy sources.”

The session ended with a discussion about making conscious decisions on energy and water use, transportation and waste in order to live sustainably, he said.

Other sessions and activities covered topics such as community resiliency in the face of climate change, materials and sustainability, autonomous vehicles and more. In adddition to Verma and Makhnenko, CEE faculty members Eun Jeong Cha, Alireza Talebpour, Nishant Garg, Tugce Baser and Bill Spencer led camp sessions. Professor John Popovics served as the camp coordinator.

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Campers learn about materials fracture properties using a simple sheet of paper.

“To me, the greatest value summer camp offered is to expose the students to problems of societal challenges and derive their potential solutions using engineering concepts and principles,” Verma said. “It filled the students with the power of confidence that the strength to solve these issues are within themselves.”

To learn more about the WYSE camps at Grainger Engineering, visit wyse.engineering.illinois.edu.



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This story was published August 4, 2022.