Camp teaches students ways to make their mark on the world

By  | June 13, 2018 | Filed under: News

Logs will become part of a community enhancement project at SHiFt Camp at Seven Springs Lodge

TUSCUMBIA – Each June, design and engineering students from colleges and universities around the world travel to western Colbert County to learn ways of solving problems big and they work to make the world a better place.

Since 2013, SHiFT Design Camp has been held annually at Seven Springs Lodge, in the Appalachian foothills of northwest Alabama. While at the weeklong camp, the students are tasked with creating objects to improve life at their campsite community, using only objects they can scavenge from the woodlands and fields surrounding the lodge. They also participate in workshops and attend lectures by renowned designers, engineers, scientists and other professionals. This year’s camp attracted 90 campers from throughout and United States and 10 other countries.

Owen Foster, chair of the industrial design program at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, said the camp encourages collaboration when solving problems. Foster is co-founder of SHiFT Design Camp. His parents and brother operate Seven Springs Lodge.

Campers attach boards to a tree to create an elevated seating platform for campfire events at SHiFT Camp

“It takes the hard skills they have learned in college and combines them with the soft skills they need in life with an emphasis on collaboration, empathy and problem solving,” Foster said.

A goal of the camp is to help accelerate the talent, vison and abilities of the students to create successful leaders.

“We want to make the campers better people for the world,” Foster said. “That makes the world a better place for everyone.”

The campers must solve the problems they encounter, without using computers or smart phones. By being disconnected from the Internet and social media, the campers learn to rely on their wits and interactions with one another to solve problems such as building a bridge or an elevated platform to increase seating in the campfire area.


Campers scavenge boards from old pallets to provide lumber for one of their projects at SHiFT Camp

ydney Fowler, a recent industrial design graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, began attending SHiFT Design Camp the summer after graduating from high school. She has now attended six sessions of the camp.

“You learn a lot about life in general,” Fowler said. “You learn how to problem solve by working as a team. You learn that it’s okay to fail, if you take what you learned from that failure and use it to do a better job next time.”

Jean Paul Pompeo, a recent graduate of Ohio State University, said the skills he has honed at SHiFT Design Camp have prepared him for a career as an industrial designer. “You learn how to work with people with different skill sets in order to accomplish a goal. You learn how use everyone on your team’s ideas for solving problems.”

Claudia Miranda a Savanah College of Art and Design graduate and veteran SHiFT camper, said she enjoys coming to Seven Springs each year to hone her problem solving skills and savor the beauty of rural northwest Alabama. “It’s always a great experience.”

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