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Design Camp Dives Into Olympic Themes

Laila Knio had a challenging week. First she had to tackle some new designs for the Olympic Village. Then there was an entire line of Olympic apparel to sketch out. Rounding out her Olympic project, she roughed out a few ideas for a transportation system to handle all that extra traffic around London.

No, Knio isn’t a world famous designer. But she may be someday.

This summer she’s one of 250 high school students facing some real-world challenges during an immersive summer experience called Design Camp.

A Complete Immersion

Design Camp is a summer design program for high school students organized by the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh and held mostly at the College of Design. It’s tough for good reason.

“Students see what being a freshman in the College of Design is really like,” says Julia Rice, the program coordinator.

As Knio found out, that means working in large student groups and around the clock. This is under intense pressure and under the practiced eye of design professionals.

Students designed and built cardboard models of the Olympic Village.

At one morning session a professor rattles off his critique of the student’s Team USA uniforms. Drawings of racy boots, pants and galactic looking sports jackets line the walls. Nobody speaks but it’s likely more than a few are offering up quick, silent prayers.

In one rotation, called “New Day,” students treat the Olympic Village like a larger community, designing everything from a transportation system to a currency exchanger or a stopwatch. On “Architecture Day” Knio thrived, designing an indoor and outdoor pool whereby swimmers swim under a wall to reach outside. This was part of a larger task to design an athletic center and became part of her 10-piece portfolio which she plans to submit to the College of Design. “I was thrilled,” she says.

Pushing Through

Design Camp can be exhausting, yet great things often emerge. Knio, who attends Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, says she overcame her fear of public speaking at Design Camp.

Students also learn about applying at the acclaimed College of Design which receives up to 1,000 applications for 150 spots every year. Instructors describe the application process and show how to document a portfolio neatly and well. The sense of camaraderie is also strong. When one student learns her uniform is judged the best, her team whoops and hollers. For Knio and others Design Camp is well worth the effort. “Design Camp was incredible,” she says.