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Students get hands-on engineering experience at summer camp hosted by Avista

SPOKANE, Wash. - Digging gas lines and installing transformers may not sound like the most glamorous way to spend your summer vacation, but a dozen of Inland Northwest students signed up to do just that this month.

In total, 72 students across the area applied for a shot at Avista's Energy Pathways Student Career Experience this summer and 16 -- from 12 different schools -- got their chance.

Think of it as a summer camp with stakes, designed to give those students hands-on engineering experience with experts in the field before they even graduate high school.

"It's the perfect pathway to get these kids to realize that they have a stake in the world that they live in," said lead instructor Kim Taylor.

The biggest lesson they're digging up? It's never too late to try something new, because you never know what it might bring you. Take soon-to-be senior Riley Olmstead for example.

"I actually was not familiar at all with engineering, I haven't taken any high school classes that relate to it at all, so this has just been kind of an eye opener," said Riley. "If you want to try something, they like encourage that and push you in that direction so that you can know what you love to do."

On top of getting four weeks of real-world experience in and out of the classroom -- competing, designing, planning, and doing -- students like Sprague High School junior Thomas Schermerhorn are making friends along the way.

"Through the different stuff we've done, we've kind of come together on what our interests are and kind of who we are as people," said Thomas. "It's definitely fun trying to outdo your classmates and we've kind of grown close together so it's a lot of fun to work with friends." 

It's a treat for Kim, who has a break from teaching at Sacajawea Middle School this summer.

"The goal is, to hopefully, that some way, in all the things they get to experience, and actually physically do, that they're gonna start finding what makes them smile from the inside and what path they're gonna pursue," said Kim. "They can do anything. They just have to learn how to do it, slowly pick it up and then just go for it."

The students have a week and a half left to try something new before they "graduate" from the summer camp.



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