Going nuts (and bolts) at camp

Evan Topper (left) and Javier Tejeda, both 13, were hard at work Friday constructing a robot using Legos during the Got Manufacturing? camp at Trident Technical College.

While most kids at summer camps swim and do arts and crafts, a group of Charleston-area middle-schoolers this week learned the nuts and bolts of manufacturing.

Twenty rising eighth-graders from Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties participated in the weeklong Got Manufacturing? camp at Trident Technical College.

The camp, which is funded in part by Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs, the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, gives participants the opportunity to learn about careers in manufacturing and get hands-on experience in the trades.

Sam Speraw, Trident's program coordinator for electrical and automated technologies, said students spent time on lessons in the classroom, learning computer and other manufacturing-related skills, and taking tours of local companies.

On Friday, the last day of the camp, students were using skills they had learned throughout the week to program and build Lego robots.

Javier Tejeda, a student at Sangaree Middle School who calls himself "a hands-on type of guy," said he and his partner were building a robot with a light sensor that will follow a black line.

His partner, Evan Topper of Rollings Middle School, said,

"Our challenge is to have the robot follow a black line, bump the wall, back up and turn."

Evan, who wants to be an aerospace engineer, said the company tours were the best part of the camp. "It's just a good way to learn about the jobs," he said.

The group visited Alcoa-Mount Holly, Leatherwood Electronics and Eaton Aerospace.

Speraw said the camp, which has been running for the past 12 years, exposes young people to jobs ranging from production work to engineering.

The camp has sparked interest in the manufacturing fields in some students, he said.

Some students who attended the camp as children ended up working in manufacturing-related positions at Trident as adults, he said.

"We open the eyes of the kids to career opportunities, even if it's something they decide not to do," Speraw said.

Javier said he's already sure he wants to pursue a career in automotive manufacturing.

"When we get out of high school, there's going to be a big demand for jobs, so I might as well get started now," he said.