About 75 high school students from West Virginia and surrounding states will get to design and build robots and airplanes, work with GPS navigation systems, and build trusses and bridges during the Engineers of Tomorrow Summer Experience starting today (July 10) at West Virginia University.

The program focuses on attracting Appalachian high school students, particularly women and minorities, to engineering, math and science-related majors and careers.

Four week-long camps will provide participants the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities and be introduced to techniques that will help them succeed in college, said Gary Winn, professor of industrial and management systems engineering, who heads the program.

In addition to gaining academic skills, participants will be exposed to life on a college campus during their week-long stay at WVU .

A big part of the program is mentorship of the high school students by WVU engineering students, said Winn.

Our students act as role models, and talk with the high school students about how to be successful in college, both socially and academically,he said.”This is especially important in Appalachia, where many high school students dont have a parent or older sibling to serve as a role model for academic success. Participants definitely take away an increased enthusiasm for education and a greater sense of excitement about career opportunities.

Not all of these students will end up as an engineer, physicist or biologist, Winn said.

But, they will have learned about technical careers and some of them will probably move in that direction,he noted.The end result will be academic improvement for the students and economic development for the state.

All tuition, lodging, transportation and meal fees are covered through the grant-funded program.

Engineers of Tomorrow is a joint program of the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources; Eberly College of Arts and Science; the College of Human Resources and Education and the EdVenture Group, a Morgantown-based nonprofit educational organization.

Sponsors include Arch Coal; American Electric Power; Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium; National Science Foundation; Peabody Energy and PPG Industries.