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Will summer camps inspire the next generation of oil and gas engineers?

Louisiana students will have the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse into the oil and gas industry this summer.

Fletcher Technical Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College have teamed up with oil and gas companies in the region to facilitate three energy-minded camps meant to promote curiosity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Nicol Blanchard, the regional camp coordinator, told the Daily Comet, “It’s about changing their mindset early on to get them excited about math and science.”

The camps, spread out through June and July, are open to a range of third to eleventh grade students. The bright young minds will have the opportunity to partake in presentations, tours and workshops where they will gain direct insights into the industry. The Daily Comet reports that students will be able to use experiments to learn about aspects of the industry such as oil extraction and rock formations.

“It teaches them how to work with the details and practicalities of an oil refinery,” noted Anthony Baham. Baham is the chief workforce development officer at South Central Louisiana Technical College, which puts him in a qualified position to evaluate just how necessary camps like these are.

While the three camps are certainly geared toward inspiring interest in STEM-related futures, they also have a much more practical purpose for the oil and gas industry. Baby boomers, the next generation that will likely usher a wave of retirements in the near future, account for 50 percent of the industry’s workforce. Educated and engaged employees will be needed to fill the gap they leave behind in what is being dubbed “the great crew change.”

First up in the summer’s line-up is Shell’s Energy Venture Production Camp, which will run June 15-19 at Fletcher’s Shriever campus. The week is already full to capacity with 9th, 10th and 11th grade high school students who will have the chance to perform lab experiments, make energy efficient models and even get a behind-the-scenes look at Shell’s operations. The week will conclude with student presentations on Friday where the high schoolers will showcase what they learned during the camp.

The next camp, held at South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Young Memorial campus, will take place June 22-26. Another full-to-capacity week, the camp will focus on the technological aspects of the energy sector.

The final summer camp, Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) Camp on Fletcher’s campus, is free and still has spaces available. Hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers, the camp will run three weeks from July 13-31 and is open to children in 3rd through 8th grade. Students will participate in a new project each week, complete with presentations, design competitions and physical competitions, which parents are encouraged to attend.

To apply for the SEEK summer camp, visit www.nsbe.org/SEEK.aspx.

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