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Successful Outreach Workshop Features Engineering Element

June 21, 2017
Students from Native American Summer Institute look on as CEAS faculty demonstrate a stream trailer.
Students from Native American Summer Institute look on as CEAS faculty demonstrate a stream trailer.

Some Wyoming high school students learned about the raw power of water, thanks to the University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science.
 
The students, who came to campus for UW’s inaugural Native American Summer Institute, saw firsthand how a river or stream can affect an entire landscape.
 
The institute brought 28 Native students from Wyoming to the UW campus for a week of activities focused on college preparation; academic, career and cultural exploration; personal and community development; and recreational and other activities. The students stayed in UW’s residence halls, with supervision and guidance from UW faculty and staff members, along with leaders from the Wind River reservation. The summer institute participants experienced a wide cross-section of UW’s academic offerings, and field trips to Vedauwoo, the Wyoming Infrared Observatory on Jelm Mountain, and UW Outdoor Program activities at Curt Gowdy State Park.
 
Six students in the Friday morning workshop became familiar with a learning tool called a stream trailer, borrowed from the Laramie River Conservation District. It is a specially designed tow-behind trailer with multicolored sand and spigots on the back to regulate flow from one end to the other. It resembles an overhead view of a flood plain, complete with model houses, animals and cars. The water cuts channels and rivers into the sand, in a similar fashion to the river systems of Wyoming.
 
Two faculty members from the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Associate Lecturer Ryan Kobbe and Assistant Professor Kevin Befus, led the workshop. Befus and Kobbe highlighted the different fields in civil and architectural engineering and described processes taking place on the trailer.
 
For incoming senior Jayce Old Coyote of Wyoming Indian, the engineering and computer programming activities, which included the use of Raspberry Pis, small computers on cards that are similar to an Intel processor, was most engaging. The activities explored use of the devices for climate study, robotics and other applications.
 
“This is a great place—an awesome learning environment,” Old Coyote says. “It has been fun to be here to challenge myself, experience new things and talk to new people.”
 
Lee Tendore, a student in American Indian Studies, served as a mentor to the group. He’s been at UW for three years and is originally from Fort Washakie, Wyo. His wife, Reinette, is the coordinator of the program.
 
“I wanted to get (the students) more involved with the program,” he says. “Not many of them are outspoken, so I wanted to reinforce that it’s OK to talk. Now I see them interacting. This is a great opportunity to show them about higher learning.”
 
It was quite the week for the students, with plenty of activities and information to process. As Kobbe and Befus explain the workshop, several began playing in the sand, creating structures with trowels and their hands. But that’s a good start for their activity, and soon, they separated into groups of two and created “reservoirs” with the sand, learning about the process of water management.
 
After the initial build, the students learned what worked and what didn’t. A 10-minute water run time showed them areas to shore up, and they scooped all the water out to compare totals. Taking what they’d learned, they snagged building materials like imitation pine boughs, fences, rocks and small lengths of PVC to act as reservoir drains. The payoff for the session was when Befus cranked the trailer water up to see how the reservoir could fail, as sand and plastic animals came tumbling down the current.
 
The approach from the CEAS and other campus areas to make the sessions interactive helped the students get more into it, Tendore says.
 
“I think they came here expecting just classroom stuff, lectures and slides on an overhead projector,” he added. “They are enjoying it. I’ve seen some 180s in terms of their personalities and attitudes. Early in the week, they would just follow or fall in line. Now you’re seeing them lead on these activities and interacting with the professors.”
 
Participants in the Native American Summer Institute, listed by high school, included:
 
Wyoming Indian High School -- Halle Robinson, Elizabeth Valdez, Shyloh Underwood, Rhaelle Curry, Britney Bennett, Jocelia Her Many Horses and Jayce Old Coyote.
 
Lander Valley High School -- Taylee Dresser, MacKenzie Shakespeare, Shaylissa Bald Eagle, Elk Redman and Martin Brown.
 
St. Stephens High School -- Jade Bell, Echo Oldman, Kale Ferris, Trenton Friday, Steven Antelope and Patton Teran.
 
Riverton High School -- Alessa Brown, Leighanna Shoulderblade and Miracle Seminole.
 
Wind River High School -- Vonnie Capitan.
 
Laramie High School -- Chet Russell, Esai Jaime, Journey Lebeau, Talissa Littlesun-Russell, Hudda Herrera and Jacob Lebeau.


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