The College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) is gearing up to host a summer day camp specifically targeted to 8th, 9th and 10th graders from underrepresented communities.

Camp Connect 1, to be held July 8-12 on UCF’s main campus in Orlando, is an initiative of CECS’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and is open to students who are new to the UCF Camp Connect experience. Camp Connect 2, July 15-19, will be for invited campers who completed Camp Connect 1 last year.

The camp is designed to encourage and inspire children to excel in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) discipline, and specifically an engineering specialty. Targeting 8th, 9th and 10th graders allows participants enough time in their remaining high school years to best prepare for a college engineering curriculum.

Students will participate in hands-on activities, visit working labs and meet with professors in CECS’s academic departments, including Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering; Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Industrial Engineering and Management Systems; and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

At the end of the week, campers will participate in a team project, give presentations and receive awards.

“Many students in the grades we’re targeting don’t know what engineering is,” said Fidelia Nnadi, a civil engineering associate professor and director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “When they come to the UCF campus, and specifically to our college, they start to envision themselves in this environment. That experience sparks a belief that they can be here just like anyone else.”

The goal is to have at least 100 participants in Camp Connect 1. Camp organizers plan to follow their academic progress over the next several years to determine whether the camp is an effective way to increase diversity in its student body.

“We want to see more female, African-American, Latino and Native American students in our college, so that our student body reflects the environment we live in,” Dr. Nnadi said.

Camp Connect 1 runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cost is $175 for the week. Those interested may register online by May 3. For more information, contact the CECS Office of Diversity and Inclusion at 407-823-3466.

The CECS Office of Diversity and Inclusion works with faculty and staff to constantly improve recruitment, mentoring and retention of students from underrepresented groups. The more diverse CECS is, the more students are able to gain a competitive advantage in the global and technological market.