"You know in a real life situation what you're going to use math for," says Anna Bausman, a ninth-grader at McCallum High School. She was one of 17 middle- and high-schoolers in the second 2018 session of RangerAce Construction Camp.



The camp, which will return for the second year this summer, exposes kids to all the things that go into construction, including surveying sites, designing with computers and drafting software, estimating costs, finding the right materials, knowing which heavy equipment is needed, and actual building techniques including pouring and smoothing concrete.

Last summer they were at Driveway Austin, and each team designed, built and painted a square pad to be used for washing cars and go-karts there. They learned that construction is a lot of teamwork — and math.

"We think this camp lets them do a lot of things hands on," says Jessica Ziehr, executive director of Covalent Foundation, a grant-making foundation for underserved youth, which sponsored the camp.

The curriculum for the camp was developed by Kelli Allen, a clinical assistant professor at UTeach Austin.

Before campers built their pads, they took field trips to a quarry to research materials (and find fossils), and they were visited by people in the construction industry, who also brought heavy machinery for the teens to check out.

As hands-on as the camp is, "I love to take it back to STEM," Ziehr says. "It's so much math and science."

In fact, the teams competed to see who could deliver the best cost and materials estimate.

"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be," Anna said. "It's been fun, though."

Lorena Loredo, an 11th-grader at Bowie, said she learned a lot about construction, including seeing how people work with different types of rock.

One of the things Ziehr learned was how much the campers really could do. The staff had the forms for the concrete pour built for the campers, but campers let staff know that they would have liked to have built the forms themselves.

Throughout the camp, safety around the worksite was stressed. Hamiso Luhizo, a seventh-grader at Small Middle School, says when it comes to big equipment, "they taught us how to get up safely," she says. And then how to get back down, safely.

"We're just trying to expose them to pieces of daily life, encountering things they don't really know," Ziehr says.