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Future leaders explore energy at a unique summer camp

USC students help high schoolers learn everything they want to know about science and engineering

Students at the USC Chevron Frontiers of Energy Resources Summer Camp
A student demonstrates his team's wind-powered water lift at the USC Chevron Frontiers of Energy Resources Summer Camp. (USC Photo/Vanessa Wilkins)

The USC Chevron Frontiers of Energy Resources Summer Camp provides an opportunity for some of the nation’s smartest high school students to explore the field of energy and renewable resources.

Founded in 2009, the camp, which this year ran from June 22 to June 27, was better than ever, according to program manager Juli Legat.

“During the beginning years, we weren’t as competitive,” Legat said, “so the quality of the students wasn’t as good as it is now.”

This year, only 20 of 200 applicants were chosen to participate in the program. Campers lived in campus dorms, ate at USC dining halls and attended lectures in USC Viterbi School of Engineering classrooms. The USC Chevron partnership enables campers to attend free of charge.

The program included daily lectures from USC Viterbi professors and leaders in the energy industry. Students also took part in an educational field trip to find fossils and participated in hands-on activities such as coding computer programs and building functional wind tunnels out of toy pieces.

All camp counselors were USC students who served as mentors by answering questions and giving advice on all aspects of college life.

“It’s really fun knowing that I’m helping inspire kids to pursue the STEM field in college,” said counselor Anna Damir, who attended the program as a camper in 2010.

High school senior Alex Kortepeter of Indiana, who had never been to Los Angeles before, was ecstatic to have been selected to the program.

“Energy is so much more complex than I first imagined, and the professionals who come in and talk to us really know their stuff,” he said. “I think it’s really great that Chevron is reaching out to train young minds to think about how we’re going to sustain this world in the future.”

New friends and lots of enthusiasm

Kortepeter added that he most enjoyed making new friends.

“It’s nice to meet people who have so much in common with me. I stayed up late with the guys, and we talked about everything you can imagine.”

Camper Yuliana Chacon of Midland, Texas, echoed Kortepeter’s enthusiasm and said that the camp made her more confident.

“When I came here, I was so nervous! I thought that I wasn’t going to fit in because sometimes when people look at me they don’t think I have the brains to be an engineer,” she said. “But I’ve realized that even though we are all different, we each have something to give in our own individual ways, and it’s awesome to hear other people’s experience and what they’ve gone through.”

Legat said she is thankful to Chevron’s sponsorship, which benefits the nation’s future leaders.

“This camp resonates with the students, and it sparks this little fire that makes them want to continue,” she said. “I keep in touch with all of the students, and they are very appreciative.”

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