This isn't your average sand castle competition. That's because these aren't your average kids. They represent some of the brightest scientific minds from high schools across the country -- 77 are from our region.
"It's really funny to compete with the other teams to see if we can get a better design and how theirs works and see if we can implement that in ours," said Conner Pike a student from Maryland.
The 94 aspiring engineers are participating in a week long camp run by the Governor's Institutes of Vermont. The latest challenge -- to build a stable sand arch.
"Some of these arches will be big enough for them to crawl through or even kneel through or walk through," said Tom Tailer with the Governor's Institute of Vermont.
Which isn't easy with sand. Success is actually based on a complicated mathematical equation, and these kids will tell you it's harder than it looks.
"There are some really good arches here. Actually I thought ours was the best before it collapsed," said Ezekiel Geffken of Williston.
Geffken and his teammates are not giving up. It's back to brainstorming for Plan B. Many students say that need to succeed is what makes them feel so comfortable at camp. "So no one thinks, 'oh they're really weird, they like doing this.' Everyone is like, 'oh I like doing that too,'" said Eileen Kocherlakota of Burlington.
Kocherlakota is a minority at camp. She's one of just 33 females attending the program. It's a stat she's working to change. "A lot of time people think that math, science and engineering is just for men but if more girls see women engineers then they'll say, oh I can do that too," she said.
Four of these students will be chosen to compete in the International Earth Science Olympiad this fall in Argentina. There they'll compete with students from other countries to solve real problems facing Argentina. That's why lesson learned at this camp are so important.
"The students that we are preparing to be the engineers of the next generation have to not only understand the technical aspects of their field, they also have to know how to communicate as gentle, compassionate caring human beings," Tom Tailer said.
Some of these kids know exactly what they want to study, but for others who aren't so sure, the camp gives them a fun way to get their feet wet in the field.
Sand arches are just the beginning. The students will work on several inventions throughout the week, from engineering robots to creating adaptive devices for the blind.
If you want to check out their projects, they'll be on display at the U-Mall this Saturday from 10 to 3.
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