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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Photo by Vanessa Pena
High school students prepare their catapult for a design competition this Saturday at Texas A&M. 
Photo by Vanessa Pena High school students prepare their catapult for a design competition this Saturday at Texas A&M. 

Rain didn’t stop more than 400 K-12 students from taking part in a daylong engineering design competition hosted on Texas A&M’s campus.
Texas A&M’s Student Engineers’ Council welcomed students from around the state Saturday to the first Spark Conference. As a full-day competition, the conference allowed students to showcase their skills in engineering-related activities and exposed them to engineering as they consider a future career.
The day started off in the Zachry Engineering Center with a kickoff ceremony hosted by the yell leaders. Participants then moved to various design competitions across the engineering parts of campus. Melinda McClure, chemical engineering senior and SEC president, said the SEC wanted to provide competitions in various engineering disciplines.
“The students get to have an experience in areas of interest to them,” McClure said. “Petroleum engineering might be of interest, so they might sign up for ReservWars. We’re really trying to cater to different types of engineers.”
Among the many competitions offered Saturday was ReservWars, which allowed participants to design an oil reservoir, and Galaxy Glider, in which competitors used principles of aerodynamics to construct the best glider. While tests of the gliders were initially meant to be held at the top of one of the engineering buildings, Saturday’s rain moved the competition indoors. Other activities included a computer coding competition for high schoolers and an egg drop challenge, which was open to all grades.
McClure said while the SEC hosted the Spark conference, the group reached out to the other engineering societies on campus to provide the various design competitions.
Torey Dierckman, mechanical engineering senior and a Spark co-chair, said while the SEC has hosted similar conferences in the past, it wanted to expand in the fall as well as include plenty of opportunities for elementary and middle schoolers who are already interested in engineering.
“Elementary kids never get to do engineering stuff, and it’s cool to let them come here and try stuff out and hopefully inspire them to go into engineering,” Dierckman said.
McClure said she hopes the conference showed participating students a different side of engineering, as well as helped them consider the various fields as viable career options.
“The goal of the conference is to increase engineering awareness amongst students in our community and around the state,” McClure said. “We hope that the students take away a positive experience in engineering, and that they consider engineering in the future when deciding what they want to major in.”
One of the groups participating Saturday was POWER SET from Palacios High School. The all-girl group focuses on encouraging women to practice their interest in various STEM fields. Member Serena Zamarripa said in addition to competing, she was excited for the chance to meet people with similar interests from around Texas.
“We were excited for the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things,” Zamarripa said. “It’s a great place to network and make connections later on.”

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