Beattie Career Center summer camps can help middle schoolers decide on careers

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Summer camp at A.W. Beattie Career Center is the place for middle schoolers who want to learn how to build a rocket, construct a robot or cook like an Iron Chef.

"I've always loved robots and taking things apart," said Nicholas Lockhart, 12, of Bellevue. A seventh-grader at Northgate, Nicholas is planning to enroll at Beattie as soon as he enters high school.

He said he's attending Beattie's summer camp as a way to prepare for his future.

"I want to be a robotics engineer, so after Beattie, I want to go to Carnegie Mellon [University] and learn to build robots for the military," he said.

Sandra Niggel, supervisor of career and technical education at Beattie, said robotics was the first camp offered by the McCandless career center six years ago.

The success of the robotics camps has blossomed into a variety of selections such as automotive technology, android programming smart devices, archery, rocket building, auto body repair, carpentry, graphic design and culinary arts.

"Camp is a good way for us to introduce students to Beattie while we make them aware of all the careers that are out there," said Mrs. Niggel.

The one-week camp for grades six to nine attracts many home-schooled students, said Mrs. Niggel, and campers are typically more enthusiastic than her regular high school students.

Ben McAdams, 13, commutes from Moon for the carpentry "Build a Model Home" camp.

"I did robotics last year, but I also like working with wood," said the home-schooled eighth-grader as he and 10-year-old Joah Detwiler, also home-schooled, of Shaler, worked on their doll-sized houses, learning to frame a house, build stairs and install windows in miniature.

"I've always wanted to do this," said 11-year-old Michael Urich of McCandless as he worked with a Beattie robot during camp last week.

"My brother did it a few years ago, and I always came on the last day. It's great to work with a team and build a robot."

Robotics instructor Randy Bish noted that this year's crop of engineer wanna-bes is younger because they decided to let sixth-graders take the course.

"Some of these kids have never done physical, nuts-and-bolts construction before. Other kids are more experienced," he said, adding that the camp's objective is to educate youngsters on the big-picture reality of robotics as they build a toy robot. " ... The kids also learn things like how important it is to have documentation of their work and how to present a design."

Eric Heasley, Beattie director, said the summer camp is a "great opportunity for us to provide middle school students with a look at all the career choices that are open to them."

The auto body repair campers were learning to airbrush license plates.

"Painting is an important skill, often utilized in auto body repair," said instructor Pat Ciccone, explaining that the camp introduces kids to industry tools and equipment and features a windshield replacement demonstration.

"These kids are wonderful," Mr. Ciccone said of his campers. "They're into it, and they are clearly happy to be here."

An eighth-grader at Hampton Middle School, Jasen Simon, 12, has been working on cars with his dad and knows he wants to be an auto mechanic. He also plans on attending Beattie in ninth grade.

Jasen said that his parents thought Auto Body Repair camp would be the perfect summer activity for him.

"I really like being in this atmosphere," Jasen said. "It feels like this will help me achieve my goals in the future."

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Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer:


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