From uncertainty at camp to successful student

Picture of Megan driving a robotWhen Megan Peterson attended Central Lakes College’s Summer Engineering and Manufacturing (SEaM) Camp for the first time in 2009 when she was a freshman in high school, she wasn’t sure about attending—“I was terrified,” she says. But thanks to her mom, she went and found she really enjoyed building the robot. By the end of camp, Megan couldn’t wait to attend the next year. She attended for three years and then returned as a mentor for the camp.

Now, Megan is in her first year of the robotics program at Central Lakes College (CLC), expects to graduate in May 2017, and mentors new camp attendees.

Megan credits the camp for getting her interested in manufacturing, “It opened my eyes to the different things you can do.” During camp, she was excited for the opportunity to run the “big” robot in the robotics lab and wanted to learn more. She is excited about her future and pursuing a career in robotics as “the world is full of robotics, from dairy farming to building cars.”

At the camp, students from middle and high school are exposed to robotics, mechanical systems, electrical systems, and programming. They build robots in pairs throughout the week, guided by mentors. At the end of the week, their robots battle it out in a demolition derby. CLC’s camp has been held for 11 years.

Nathan Peterson, robotics instructor, estimates the manufacturing programs at CLC have enrolled 18 students from SEaM Camp over the past 11 years, since the camp started. Many of those former campers and students are now employed in manufacturing.

Nathan shares, “SEaM Camp is one of our greatest outreach programs. Camp helps students like Megan explore their creativity, robotics, engineering, and design.” Another benefit is that they become familiar with faculty and it gets them on campus, and Megan is a great example. Megan started as a camper, then she wanted to move to the next level as a camp mentor, and currently is doing well in the robotics program. “It was a great transition from camper to our program,” states Nathan.

360’s role is instrumental in reaching these students and exposing them to the possibilities in manufacturing, Nathan says. “This camp would not happen without 360.”