From MechSE camper to camp counselor
In two previous summers Pakeltis spent a week immersing herself in engineering at camps for high school students. In 2013, before her junior year of high school, Pakeltis attended the bioengineering camp. She then returned before her senior year to attend the GBAM camp - Girls Building Awesome Machines - for mechanical engineering.
Now, having settled into the mechanical engineering program, she returned to camp once again—this time as a camp counselor. She oversaw campers at both of MechSE’s week-long camps – GBAM and Exploring MechSE – eating meals together and getting to know their aspirations and interests.
“I think it’s great to talk specifically to the girls and help further their passion for engineering so they can pursue their interest.”
Bonding with her campers comes easily for her, as she was in their shoes just a few years ago. On the first night of camp, the kids had to design a method of getting two water balloons from the second to the first floor. The first balloon had to make it down safely, but the second had to break.
She had done the same activity and compared notes with the kids working on it now.
“I found the video of me doing it and I would have conversations with the campers about what they did and then talk about what I did. It was a great comparison and good bonding too,” Pakeltis said.
MechSE Associate Professor Matt West, one of the faculty coordinators of the camps, noted how well Pakeltis connected with the campers.
“Abby was an outstanding counselor. She was great at guiding the girls through activities she’d done herself as a camper, like talking to practicing engineers at Caterpillar, and she was always eager to jump in and participate, including finding out personally at IntelliWheels just how hard it is to use a wheelchair on a slope. It’s so rewarding for me to see campers like Abby coming to Illinois as engineering undergrads and then being such positive role models for the next group of high school girls,” he said.
Pakeltis said she understands the kind of impact this camp can have on a student’s choices. The majority of campers know that they want to go into engineering, and their experiences here can help them determine their field.
“It really has something for everyone’s interest,” Pakeltis said. “In GBAM and Exploring MechSE the camp coordinators do such a great job of incorporating so many different areas within mechanical engineering to show how broad it is and how much you can do with it.”
Pakeltis also praised the setup of the camp, and how using its different programs gave her the experience she would need to be successful later in college. She was able to meet professors that she would later have for class, and experienced what it would be like as an engineering student at the university.
“You’re not just sitting there getting lectured at,” Pakeltis said. “They really come up with these great ideas to show you the best parts of engineering and how creative you can be with it.”
The experience Pakeltis had as a camper was one of the reasons that she selected Illinois for college.
“Walking around on campus, walking from the different classes, doing the engineering activities, it felt like a preview to being a student on campus,” Pakeltis said.