[HOUSTON] – When school breaks for the summer, some students fling away their pencils and shut their books. No more lessons until fall! But two Shell-sponsored summer camps make science and math so much fun that students may not even realize they are learning.
“I enjoyed building the rockets and race cars!” said Jacob Bell, a fifth-grade student whose face beamed with excitement when he attended one of Shell’s camps in Houston, Texas. “It helped me understand the process of how things are formed.”
These playful camp activities may seem unrelated to Shell’s businesses, but they serve a serious purpose: to awaken a lifelong passion in students for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Shell depends on a steady pipeline of STEM-trained workers, but not enough people are entering these fields in the United States, according to Michael Alvarez, manager of Shell’s Workforce Development Initiative. Shell sponsors the camps to help reverse this trend.
“The camps are almost like a very early recruiting tool for kids,” Alvarez explained. “They show students that STEM studies can be fun and lead to good jobs. They also guide students to take the right courses and begin laying a solid academic foundation for STEM careers.”
Singing, Dancing and Catching the Wind
The program that sparked Jacob Bell’s enthusiasm for science was the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK), organized by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Shell sponsored the free camp in Houston for about 360 third, fourth and fifth grade students.
Every day for three weeks, SEEK campers gathered at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy to learn about energy and how it is generated by wind. For instance, one week they used kits provided by the National Energy Education Development Project to create wind in a diorama— and then they harnessed its power to lift weight with pinwheels.
Students showcased their new knowledge through creative and engineering challenges. They wrote stories, created song and dance routines, and performed skits.
Campers looked up to the young engineers who mentored them, and to the Shell volunteers who spoke to them about engineering careers. “By being exposed to real-life professionals who looked like them and often came from the same communities, students could see that engineering is a very real career option for them,” said Sharifa Vinson, SEEK manager (See video on the Houston SEEK camps)
From Camp to Career
Older students learned even more about energy careers at another summer camp, called EnergyVenture. Shell hosted seven EnergyVenture camps at Houston’s three San Jacinto College campuses. About 175 students aged 12-15 attended the free one-week camps.
Like SEEK, EnergyVenture made learning fun. But the real focus was on introducing students to career opportunities in the energy field. Students listened avidly as Shell engineers and process technologists talked about their jobs.
“The likelihood of these individuals staying in the Gulf Coast region to meet the future employment demands is greater if they know they have good employment choices in the region,” said Linda Drobnich, business development manager for the Continuing and Professional Development (CPD) division at San Jacinto College.