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Going where few teens venture

  • Friday, June 28, 2013

    Bottle rocket launchPRINCESS ANNE, MD. - (June 28, 2013) - Twenty-three middle-schoolers are participating in a hands-on summer enrichment program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where they are learning about the role of scientists and engineers in the field of transportation.

    How hands-on?

    The seventh- and eighth-graders have learned about those surveying gizmos mounted on tripods that highway engineers use to ensure a road is straight - or curves just so at a safe angle. It is not as easy it may look, the students say.

    Pressurized water-fueled rockets created from plastic soda bottles gave students an opportunity to design and build something from scratch and watch their creation fly, perhaps 50 to 100 feet with the help of a bicycle pump.

    Sinan Al-Smadi from Wicomico Middle School in Salisbury can barely contain his energy when it comes time to show off what he's been learning at the "Summer Transportation Institute."

    "I want to be an engineer," Sinan says with a confident grin.

    The summer program is funded by the Federal Highway Administration through the Maryland State Highway Administration.

    Dr. Joseph Arumala, a UMES technology professor and the program's director, said he and his associates hope participants gain an appreciation for the transportation industry and perhaps think about it as a career choice.

    Survey's cameraThe summer program combines math, science, English and communication participate in field projects and trips to local land, air and water transportation-related facilities, Arumala said.

    Amar Yousif, a rising seventh grader, said he's interested in science and participated in a "green engineer" activity this past year at Somerset Intermediate School .

    Mikell Sinclair of Salisbury Middle School isn't sold on being transportation engineer, but seemed to be enjoying himself.

    "We've learned some cool stuff," he said.

    The Summer Transportation Institute is an all-day program that runs from June 24 to July 3. There is no cost to selected students who signed up on a first-come, first-serve basis and met eligibility requirements. 

    Participants receive a graphing calculator and are provided lunch, too.

    Applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and be enrolled in grades 7-8 for the 2013-14 school year in Worcester, Wicomico or Somerset county schools. 

    Bill Robinson, director, public relations, (410) 621-2355 / photos by Ashley A. Collier