Yale University: BUILDing design skills and connections as part of Camp Yale

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Design workshops, building exercises, visiting alumni in New York City, and software coding are just some of the activities incoming first-year students experienced as part of BUILD, a new, SEAS-specific pilot program created as part of Camp Yale.

Camp Yale Programs provide unique experiences and an early sense of belonging to incoming students by providing connections to new classmates and upper-level students, the university, and the surrounding communities. In addition to BUILD, other Camp Yale Programs focused on learning and service, backpacking trips, campus culture connections, and more.

Hosted jointly by the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID) and Department of Computer Science (CS), BUILD’s goal was to engage students in a series of fun, collaborative projects to build touchable objects, virtual computer programs, and friendships over a four-day period.

The first two days of BUILD took place in the CEID where the cohort of 20 students became familiar with the use of hardware build tools including the CEID’s 3D printers, laser cutter, and micro-controllers. Soon after, the students put their knowledge to practice in a workshop where they utilized the build tools to create a wall planter. Additional activities included an abstract painting workshop where the students learned the fundamentals of fluid mechanics and the materials of art in addition to an engine workshop where participants learned its machinations and how to dismantle and reassemble the device.

The second half of BUILD started with a tour of New York City and visits with CS alumni at three organizations – SecurityScorecard, Simons Foundation, and Google – all chosen to represent diverse industrial segments. SecurityScorecard is a startup focused on security such as digital forensics, the Flatiron Institute of Simons Foundation is a non-profit that builds software for advanced science research, and Google is worldwide commercial software company. For each organization the students toured the facilities and interacted with alumni and software engineers to discuss how they build and implement software.

The tours were successful in highlighting the various career paths and engagement of the Yale CS alumni, said Zhong Shao, the Thomas L. Kempner Professor and Chair of Computer Science.

“We are so fortunate to have an alumni base that is not only active and successful in industry, but also maintain deep connections and interest in the department long after graduation,” Shao sad.

The final day of BUILD provided programming challenges to the campers as they spent the day building software for different applications including synthesizing sound effects and music, creating unique graphs with data visualization, and creating a version of the Flappy Bird game using the coding platform, Scratch.

At the conclusion of BUILD, students not only “built” materials, but they also “built” relationships and connections that will last long beyond their college tenure.

“BUILD was an incredible success because it brought students to campus and allowed them to experience – in a real way, with others – why they came to Yale,” said Vincent Wilczynski, deputy dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and James S. Tyler Director of the CEID. “In essence, it gave them a chance to practice engineering and computer science even before the very first day they stepped into the classroom.”

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