FABcamp Fun

By Lori Brandt, Engineering Communications

Campers learned to build a fuel cell ...

Irvine, Ca, July 23rd, 2013 -- A very enthusiastic group of would-be engineers in bright yellow t-shirts has been spotted entering the Calit2 Building every afternoon for the last two weeks. The middle-school students – nine girls and 22 boys, this week – are participating in the inaugural summer of the Samueli School’s FABcamp, a one-week hands-on experience that allows them to create, design and build projects from start to finish.

The camp, designed for 7th and 8th graders, is run by UCI engineering staff, students and faculty. Working in state-of-the-art UCI laboratories, campers put their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to work.

The budding engineers spend each morning working in UCI’s RapidTech Center where they learn how to use CAD and the laser cutter. They design and make their own balsawood airplanes, and cast plastic models of their thumbs. 

They spend afternoons in the Calit2 Multidisciplinary Design Program lab where they are introduced to each of the five Samueli School engineering departments through a fun science project.

Paul Blair and student demonstrating the device
Paul Blair and student demonstrating the device

... create load-bearing structures and cast plastic models of their thumbs.

They learn about electricity, make basic circuits and create LED display boards. They design and construct an index card structure and test its strength with bricks. Last week’s winning team’s structure held four bricks! They learn how to make a fuel cell and hand-shaken vanilla ice cream. 

Using thin plastic, pipe cleaners, modeling clay, duct tape, a Styrofoam ball and a couple other items, the campers create a one-way valve to simulate a prosthetic heart valve. They test it by pouring water through it. The water is supposed to flow in one direction and not the other.

On the final day of camp, they test their airplanes from the second floor of engineering tower, using an inclinometer to measure the angle of flight. In groups of six, they also make a vacuum-powered hovercraft, then take turns riding it.

Last week, the kids had so much fun, they were sad to see the camp come to an end. “I really liked the electric part, I like using the circuits and figuring out different things,” said one of the boys.

Paul Blair and student demonstrating the device

Twenty-nine kids participated in the first session last week; this 
week there were 31 eager engineers-to-be.

“We got to do a lot of activities,” said one of the girls. “Building the hovercraft was really fun.”

Bob Cassidy, Samueli School director of curriculum, analytical studies, and accreditation, sent both of his children to the camp. His 15-year-old son served as a helper. “The chance to see the labs, learn in more detail what the different engineering fields encompass, eat in the commons, and just spend time doing stuff on a college campus has been very helpful for him, as he begins to think about college,” said Cassidy.

For his daughter, a 7th grader, Cassidy said, “The camp gave her a chance to do engineering in a creative and interactive way (which she likes) and to get a broader perspective on what engineers do. And she's really enjoyed it. She's been excited about what they've built. On the first day, they learned how to make some basic circuits and have 16 segment displays show her initials. She came home and wanted to learn how to do new things with the circuits. That's as good an outcome I could have hoped for – and she's been as enthusiastic about the other projects each day.”

One camper, who says he’ll probably be an engineer when he grows up, shows off his plastic thumb while giving FABcamp the pre-teen equivalent of a five-star rating. “It’s been good,” he said.