Charleston-area students engineers for a day through Clemson’s ‘Emagine!’ program

Research Engineer Ben Gislason (forefront) leads a group of students and parents in a tour of the Clemson University Restoration Institute on the former Navy Base in North Charleston. About 160 students visited the facility on Saturday to learn about engineering through Clemson's "Emagine!" program. (Christina Elmore/Staff)

Clemson University faculty on Saturday gave students in the greater-Charleston area a hands-on look at a career as an engineer through the school’s “Emagine!” program.

About 160 middle and high school students and their parents attended the event at the Clemson University Restoration Institute on the former Navy Base in North Charleston. They toured the site’s innovative testing facilities and sat in on seminars offering tips on internships, study-abroad opportunities and other steps required to achieve at the high-paying and in-demand career. The students also attempted a number of tests that held real-world value, including building air-powered cars, programing driverless vehicles and constructing towers built to withstand simulated earthquakes and hurricanes.

The program will continue in coming months with similar activities in Rock Hill, Orangeburg, Florence and Greenville.

Brad Putman, an associate professor of civil engineering at Clemson, said the program, which is in its fourth year, focused on four fields of engineering: Civil, Electrical and Computer, Mechanical and Materials Science.

“There’s a great need for engineers in this state in order to maintain global and economic competitiveness,” Putman said. “Emagine!” is beneficial, he said, in that it gives young students an opportunity to witness the real-world application of their math and science courses, allowing them to prepare early for a future in engineering.

“The kids can use their hands here,” he said, “and we can empower teachers by showing them the materials needed to continue these activities in their classrooms.”

Mikail Keitt, a 14-year-old student at Laing Middle School, attended the program with his mother, a teacher.

“We did a lot of building and figuring out plans and working through problems,” the teen said.

The work helped, he said, by giving him insight into a career that he’s beginning to consider.

Vickie Everett, the mother of a Berkeley High School senior, attended “Emagine!” with her daughter who’s considering studying electrical engineering in college. Everett studied engineering before becoming a teacher, she said.

“A part of me didn’t want (my daughter) to choose engineering just because it’s what I wanted for her,” Everett said, “so a program like this was very helpful. It’s given her an idea of what to expect and she seems to enjoy it.”

For more information on the “Emagine!” program, visit

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