They say brilliance sometimes springs from a cluttered desk.

They say brilliance sometimes springs from a cluttered desk.

For several days last week, a couple of classrooms at the Havelock Campus of Craven Community College looked like a tornado had blown through.

On several tables were plastic eggs, glue guns, strands of wire, paper, foam, propellers, solar-powered motors and what seemed like millions of Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors.

But out of all that chaos, 60 students in the annual Middle School Engineering Camp were making connections and forging breakthroughs.

“I made an anemometer to show wind speed. I made a solar powered boat. I’ve made egg car protection to see if it will hurt it when it hits the wall and I made a windmill that makes LED light,” said Will Sherrill, of Havelock. “It’s fun and it gives me a chance to build and it gives me a chance to learn new things. I learned how engineering kicks in to help different designs.”

At the center of that whirlwind of activity was Dr. Bill Fortney, an engineering professor from North Carolina State University who has led the program since it first started in 2007.

“We try to introduce the kids to just what the whole field of engineering is. Our big goal is we try to let them have a fun experience with engineering,” Fortney said. “Research really shows that middle school is a critical time when kids are making their career choice and what we find is that they really don’t understand engineering, so if things aren’t done to help them understand that field, they would never pick it as a career. They may be good in math and science but they really don’t know what to do with it. What the camp does is help them see that that interest they have in math or science can actually be channeled towards a career in engineering.”

Students from Craven, Carteret and Pamlico counties participated in the week-long camp. Engineering students from Cherry Point, Bosch and CCC helped out along with five area middle school teachers.

“We didn’t have this sort of thing when I was growing up,” said engineering student Andrew Buckner, of Havelock. “This is my second year helping though and they are always happy, especially when you get kids that have been here a couple of years. They get excited about the way things are going to turn out.”

“I am an engineering student normally so it’s my job to help out the teachers in charge of the group and give them a little bit of insight and be a helping hand to anything that needs getting done,” Buckner said. “The kids love it here. They are always happy to toy with it and to learn how the smallest of things can change the way a project works, such as the rudders on the boats or the angle of the blades on the windmills.”

The idea is to get kids an opportunity to utilize the skills they have been learning in math and science.

“I thought it would teach me more about engineering, which I was looking into as my general field and since my mom works here she told me about it,” said Jomar Peter, a local middle school student. “It helps you show what you’ve learned. It helps you to experiment with your knowledge and helps you learn even more than you already know.”

Student Rylee Marie Faraci, of New Bern agreed.

“It’s really fun,” Faraci said. “You get to meet new people and also expands how you think you can achieve. At first I didn’t think I was going to be able to do any of this but it definitely broadened my ability to do things. Since there’s a vast amount of materials you can literally do anything. It does give you some tips on how to make it but it is a wide spread of ideas. Your imagination can go wild.”

Fortney said the program has been around long enough to have students who once attended the camp who are now pursuing university engineering degrees.

“Locally there are a lot of opportunities for you if you would like to go into that career and stay in this area and live,” Fortney said. “We have been doing this long enough that we are starting to see students come through the other side come through the program.”