Rising eighth-graders Cameron Mitchell and Tyrez Thomas enjoyed a snack during a summer camp on Tuesday – as in electrodes. Sort of.

At the Aiken County Career and Technology Center, the boys had worked with instructor Kevin Rawlins to try out a virtual welding machine, where electrodes are an essential part of the process.

So as a treat, Cameron and Tyrez put together their own electrodes – crushed Oreo cookies as manganese and crushed rice as silicon. Put them on a pretzel with some powdered sugar, and voila.

Career Center personnel invited middle-schoolers throughout the county to get an introduced to a variety of fields – electricity, machine tools, health science, automotive technology, cosmetology and nail technician instruction.

“This is our fourth summer,” said Center Director Brooks Smith. “We hope we can give them some experiences that could help them make informed decisions.”

As eighth-graders next spring, they will formally select an Individual Graduation Plan – a process that gives them a tentative field to follow in high school.

“I’m always fascinated by just how mature these student are and how seriously they take this,” Smith said.

In the classroom of electricity with instructor Ricky Smith, young people were working on a circuit board – trying to make a police siren come to life.

“It sounded like the (camp) would be fun,” said Miesha Bates-Butler of North Augusta Middle School. “I wanted to see all the careers, and electricity surprised me a little bit.”

Grace Shawney and Mya Burns – both classmates of Miesha – said their mothers encouraged them. Grace said she had nothing better to do, but found the experiences informative.

“The machine tools were fun, too,” said Mya. “We got to engrave our names.”

Ricky Smith was pleased the students were willing to give up a week of summer.

“This is a good thing for them to figure out what they want to do in life,” he said. “I’m trying to let the girls know about electricity. Companies are looking for females, because they’re non-traditionals. Everybody needs electricity, like in the ice storm.”

The automotive technology instructor, Jeff Kaney, showed the middle school kids how to change fluids and check tire pressure.

“It was pretty fun that some came in already knowing how to check some of this stuff,” Kaney said.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.