New camp introduces high school students to engineering

April 21, 2022

Man in front of presentation screen.

Professor Chung-Lung Chen addresses participants of the FLO camp.

It’s never too early to start exploring new interests, especially in STEM fields. That’s why faculty in mechanical and aerospace engineering have begun a one-day camp for high school students.

The inaugural Fluid Dynamics Learning Opportunities Camp brought 15 local high school students to Mizzou Engineering on Saturday. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the camp included tours of state-of-the-art heat transfer and fluid mechanics labs, presentations and introductions to student organizations. Organizers plan to host it again in the coming years.

“Our goal is to inspire students at an early stage,” Professor Chung-Lung Chen said. “We want them to find their interests sooner so they will go on to do something in life that they love.”

Chen knows first-hand the power of getting exposed to science and engineering early in life. He recalls a college visit he took as a high school student in Taiwan in the 1970s. It was the first time he had a chance to see computers and programming, and it changed the trajectory of his life. Chen is now William and Nancy Thompson Distinguished Professor and has led a range of paradigm-shift programs in thermal management, micro and nanotechnology, computational technology and flow control. Previously, he worked at Teledyne Scientific and NASA Ames Research Center.

“If you’re doing something you’re interested in, it’s not just a job,” Chen said. “It becomes a life. I hope students got a sense of that from the camp.”

On Saturday, Chen and Assistant Research Professor Sheng Wang gave camp participants a glimpse of work happening outside of mechanical and aerospace engineering lab, as well.

Students got an in-depth look at the 3D Printing Research and Experiences Lab and had the opportunity to create custom parts using Computer Aided Design.

“We guided them through the process of 3D printing, such as how to design useful files, introduced them to powerful software, then provided the opportunity to print the final 3D object,” Wang said. “So, they were able to experience the entire process.”

Participants also had the opportunity to learn about the formula car racing team and the robotics organization.

Wang said he hopes the high schoolers left knowing that they’re not too young to explore college-level research.

“We’re happy to show them what we’re doing and what they are capable of doing,” he said. “I encourage high school students — if you’re at all interested and want to learn more, you’re always welcome to reach out. Don’t worry if you don’t have experience. As long as you want to learn, there are opportunities. At Mizzou, students can begin research as early as their freshman year. And here they will have peers and faculty who will help them along the way.”

 Start exploring your research interests. Learn more about mechanical and aerospace engineering at Mizzou!