Partners for Minorities in Engineering and Computer Science (PMECS) returned to the College of Engineering and Computing this summer. PMECS, a partnership between educators and businesses, has been sustained for nearly 40 years to provide gifted high school minority students with the chance to explore careers in engineering and computer science.
Over 100 talented students participated in the 2017 PMECS residential camp. The popular program offers full accommodations, a daily academic curriculum and social events. The newly introduced commuter camp hosted about 30 high school students. In both camps, the students explored hands-on problems in a range of engineering and computing fields.
I returned to this program because I enjoy seeing people succeed. The next generation is important, and if I can play a small part in seeing the teens develop and make life decisions that lead to achieving their goals and dreams, then I know I have done my part.
-Cedric Keitt, utility project manager for Right of Way and a returning PMECS volunteering director
Students explored civil, chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering fields, and engaged in computer coding and cybersecurity exercises. They also participated in Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) preparation and attended presentations from local companies, such as IT-oLogy, a nonprofit organization promoting information technology (IT) careers in South Carolina.
“The computer science subject was the most intriguing and enjoyable subject at PMECS. The course helped me further enhance my skills and knowledge of programming,” says Zachary LaDerek Cartledge of Dutch Fork High School. “Through a few lines of code, I can now create a program capable of calculating information like temperature, voltage and solve other numerous mathematical problems.”
Several fun camp activities promoted academic enrichment. For example, during an ice cream-making activity the students learned about its underlying chemistry; the longest maze challenge provided valuable lessons in civil engineering. Students also learned about how coffee is manufactured during a Starbucks tutorial.
Volunteers from the College of Engineering and Computing and external organizations assist each year with the PMECS camps. Volunteer duties include planning and conducting camp activities, planning the senior job shadowing experiences, managing teachers and counsellors, and even making sure the campers are fed and on schedule each day.
“Back in the 1990s when I went through the program, I saw the value in practicing for the SAT and learning about different areas of engineering,” says Cedric Keitt, utility project manager for Right of Way and a returning PMECS volunteering director. “I returned to this program because I enjoy seeing people succeed. The next generation is important, and if I can play a small part in seeing the teens develop and make life decisions that lead to achieving their goals and dreams, then I know I have done my part.”
The program has changed since Keitt was a camper. Not only has the number of students accepted each summer grown, but an additional day camp has been added prior to the overnight program. Increased university involvement means more hands-on experiences for campers. More guests are able to come and present on various topics, and the teens get more information. The number of young minority women participating in the program has also increased, which means a more diverse student population.
Students apply to PMECS though their high schools and are selected based on their grade-point averages (GPA). A few exceptions are made for individuals who don’t meet the GPA but demonstrate high potential.
“We look forward to welcoming a new class of bright young people each summer,” says Csilla Farkas, professor and associate dean, Diversity, Engagement and Inclusion at the College of Engineering and Computing. “It’s fun and rewarding for the faculty and volunteers to participate in this camp each year. We hope that many of our students pursue their future studies at the University of South Carolina.”