CLEMSON — A team will travel from Clemson University to Spartanburg to launch a four-city campaign across South Carolina to urge the state’s middle — and high-school students to consider careers in engineering, a fast-growing field filled with high-paying jobs.
The professors, students and staff will begin their “Emagine” tour at Carver Middle School at a time when the state’s economic future is becoming increasingly linked to whether it can educate enough engineers.
Engineers are critical to filling the needs of some of the state’s largest employers, such as BMW, Boeing, Duke Energy, Fluor, GE and Milliken. They will also help recruit new businesses that provide even more jobs.
Kayley Seawright, a senior from Anderson who is majoring in mechanical engineering, said she has no worries about finding a job when she graduates in May. She has begun to weigh options that range from technical sales to working for a consulting firm.
“Engineers at Clemson are a hot commodity,” said Seawright, who is undergraduate student body president.
The Clemson team’s goal will be to shatter the misconception that engineering is boring, a field reserved for math-and-science brainiacs.
“You also need to be creative,” said Scott D. Schiff, the civil engineering professor who is organizing Emagine.
Professors will lead students through a series of challenges aimed at showing how engineering applies to the real world.
They will design a paddleboat and run tests to see what they can do to make it go faster. Students will also learn about designing, building and programing robots.
Schiff said he plans to have students design a structurally efficient beam using nails and strips of foam insulation. The activity replicates the design of a wind-turbine tower, a theme inspired by the new wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston.
“I hope the Emagine program gets students excited enough that they consider engineering and begin to prepare themselves for their academic and professional career,” Schiff said.
Seawright said she has found engineering anything but boring.
She has tested campus buildings to see how much air conditioning is lost through the walls and windows and suggested improvements. Seawright said she also worked on playground equipment that would double as a water pump and could be used in areas that don’t have fresh water.
“It’s really neat to work on things you see every single day and that will make a difference in the world,” she said.
The middle- and high-school students will also hear about internships, study-abroad options and campus life. Parents will have an opportunity to learn about Clemson’s admission process.
Emagine is part of a broader outreach by Clemson to draw more students into the package of disciplines known as STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.
The earlier students begin aiming for engineering careers, the better. They need to start building technical abilities in math and science as early as middle school and certainly before the senior year of high school, Schiff said.
Numbers released by Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science last month showed that enrollment has grown nearly 54 percent since 2007 and stands at 7,167 students as of fall semester. The university as a whole grew 21.1 percent in the same period, reaching an enrollment of 21,303.
The average SAT score among the college’s incoming freshmen has increased from 1244 in 2002 to 1290 this year. A third of the college’s freshmen have the prestigious Palmetto Fellows scholarship, up from 22 percent in 2005.
The numbers’ release came on the heels of a Georgetown University study showing that the majors students choose have a big impact on future salaries.
Four of the study’s top 10 highest-earning majors in terms of median salary are offered by Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science. They are mathematics and computer science ($98,000), chemical engineering ($86,000), electrical engineering ($85,000) and mechanical engineering ($80,000).
The team’s visit to Carver Middle will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Later this semester, it will travel to Greenville, Florence and North Charleston.
As many as 240 students could attend each Emagine event.