Engineering Camp Charlotte is made possible by a collaboration
between NC State University’s College of Engineering and Cynosure Learning, L3C.

In 1998, NC State’s College of Engineering reached out to North Carolina’s parents and educators and asked them a series of questions:

  1. Do you know students who are creative and interested in why things are the way they are?
  2. Do you know students who show an interest in science, math or technology classes?
  3. Do these students like to find more than one way to solve a problem?
  4. Do they want to find a way to change the world?

The answer from parents and educators was an enthusiastic “YES!”
And so, The Engineering Place was born.

The Engineering PlaceThe mission of The Engineering Place is to educate, both directly and indirectly, the citizens of North Carolina, particularly K–12 students, about the true nature of engineering and the opportunities and careers within engineering through hands-on, inquiry- and problem-based programs and informational workshops and tools.

The Engineering Place serves as the College’s department dedicated to community outreach. In addition to coordinating other programs, the faculty and staff at The Engineering Place develop and design new summer camp curriculum each year for its partnering locations in North Carolina. There are currently four summer program locations in Hickory, Rocky Mount, Raleigh and Charlotte.

“The youth of today are the problem-solvers of tomorrow. It is imperative that we encourage children to work through problem-based scenarios. In doing so, they learn the value of collaboration and trial and error.” – Dr. Laura Bottomley

The Engineering Place summer program began in 1999 and was the brainchild of NCSU engineering professor, Dr. Laura Bottomley. Dr. Bottomley graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering. She spent two years at AT&T Bell Laboratories before returning to a Ph.D. program at NC State in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Bottomely taught at Duke University, where she began her work in K-12 outreach. Since then, she has consulted with Lockheed Martin, IBM, MCNC, and others before eventually originating her current position in the Office of Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering at NC State. Currently, Dr. Bottomley serves as the Director of Women in Engineering and Outreach Programs.

cy·no·sure [sigh-no-shure]: (noun) A cynosure is something that strongly attracts interest by its brilliance.

Cynosure Learning, L3C, is an independent company that collaborates directly with the faculty and staff at NC State University’s College of Engineering. Our mission is to educate area youth about the true nature of engineering by offering engaging hands-on activities in a variety of inquiry-based settings.

“[T]o effectively cultivate interest and ability in STEM-related disciplines, interventions must occur early, beginning at the K-12 level and continuing throughout the collegiate years.” – Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, Director of the Institute for Higher Education Policy

We believe it is important to expose children from an early age to the intrinsic benefits of STEM disciplines, particularly engineering. Engineering is fundamental to our society, yet the field of engineering is often overlooked.

As we all know, the youth of today are the problem-solvers of tomorrow. When children are given hands-on opportunities to engineer, they learn how to communicate with their peers as they collaborate and share ideas. Because children are innately creative and not afraid to try new things, they strive hard to solve problems.

While educators recognize the benefits of engineering curriculum, most schools (particularly elementary) do not have the time and resources to incorporate engineering into the school day. Therefore, we have partnered with NC State University to bring this high-quality engineering program to Mecklenburg County.

Cynosure Learning, L3C, was formed to further educational purposes described in Section 170(c)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code, as defined in G.S. 105-228.90. Neither the production of income nor capital appreciation is a significant purpose of the company. Furthermore, no activities of the company will accomplish any political or legislative purpose within the meaning of Section 170(c)(2)(D) of the Internal Revenue Code, as defined in G.S. 105-228.90.

“Why did you choose this material to use in your building design?”
“What interests you about this challenge?”
“If you had more time, what things would you consider changing or enhancing?”

Children learn best through their own discovery. Our program will give them the background and the tools to “connect their own dots.”

In our lab areas, the team leaders do NOT act like “The Sage on the Stage” — that is, someone who is there to fill them with engineering information. Instead, our team leaders act more like “The Guide on the Side” — a role model who sits alongside a camper to discuss his or her work, review progress, and suggest next steps. Having adults who act as a “Guide on the Side” gives campers the chance to practice, refine and reflect upon all that they can do.

“How’s it going, team?”
“Is everyone’s voice being heard as you imagine what your build could look like?”
“Have you guys talked about how size and weight may impact your model?”

We believe that it is critical for children to learn about teamwork early in their academic careers. Engineering Camp Charlotte helps children learn how to communicate better with one another. After all, the brilliant minds of tomorrow also need “soft skills” to get the job done right!

“What did I like in yesterday’s activity?”
“I really liked working with chemistry but electrical circuits weren’t my favorite activity.”
“I liked it when the rocket went farther because I added a fin!”

We believe it is critical for children to develop an ability to identify their likes and dislikes as they relate to any academic subject matter. Each day, the children will be asked to reflect in their Activity Journal on what concepts interested them the most and why. The objective of the activity is to encourage the children to reflect upon their thinking.

It’s Topsy-Turvy Time at Engineering Camp Charlotte! Now’s the time when the campers act as the instructors for all to see. Campers will have fun showing off their new engineering masterpieces as they do things like point out the constraints and identify the useful engineering materials in their various Engineering Challenges.

Mark your calendars for Friday afternoon — you definitely won’t want to miss this!

Jennifer Thompson
ECC Executive Director
Owner Cynosure Learning L3C

Email Jennifer

Jennifer has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, and a Masters degree in education (science and technology concentration) from Salisbury University in Maryland. She began her teaching career upon graduation and taught middle grade science for ten years.

Jennifer also served as a Fellow in the Charlotte Teachers Institute for three years where she focused on developing her science content and writing curriculum activities for middle school classrooms. In Jennifer’s classroom, students were continually encouraged to ask questions, challenge ideas, and investigate. She still believes that these skills are important for every student to apply in every aspect of their lives.

Jennifer is thrilled that Engineering Camp Charlotte allows her to take what she has learned from her own schooling, classroom, and past summers with ECC to provide the strongest engineering education summer program possible to kids in and around Charlotte.

Kristopher Campbell
ECC Site Director (2018-2020)

Kris holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Science Education from Eastern Michigan University. He is a licensed teacher in Elementary Education and Science (6-9). Upon graduating from EMU, he began teaching Kindergarten before relocating to Charlotte, NC. He is currently in his thirteenth year of teaching middle grades science.

Within Kris’ classroom he is a firm believer in making learning fun and creating real world experiences for his students. Through his lessons, students have the opportunity to find their love for science. Kris has mentored several students over the year and has served as an advisor for student council. His ability to build relationships with students and hold them to the high expectations that he sets is what makes him unique as a teacher.

Kris joined the Engineering Camp Charlotte in 2013 because of his passion for science and engineering. Through his passion he has been able to serve as the Camp Counselor and Camp Director for the middle school. ECC allows him to use his teaching skills to ensure that students have a week filled with meaningful and fun learning.

Kris has a wife, who is also an educator, and two daughters.

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