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Outreach Program Exposes Students to Engineering, Computer Science

June 19, 2018
Group of people at table assemble a vehicle kit
At left, CEAS K-14 Project Coordinator Teddi Freedman oversees a group of NASI participants in the gravity-cruiser building challenge.

Engineering and computer science activities highlighted a recent program hosted by the University of Wyoming and the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

The Native American Summer Institute was June 10-16 on the UW campus. It featured 38 Native American students from multiple states and nearly 10 high schools. They participated in academic workshops, social activities, outdoor excursions and entertainment events. The purpose of the institute is to help young people from Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation and other Native American students become acquainted with UW, and encourage preparation for college through academic, career and cultural exploration.

Reinette Tendore, UW’s Native American Program adviser, invited students from Wyoming and surrounding states to participate.

“These students come from so many different tribes, different environments and different backgrounds, but they have formed a peer support system with the sole purpose of helping each other do better in their lives,” says Tendore, who grew up on the Wind River reservation and is dedicated to encouraging more Native students to attend college. “They are getting out of their comfort zones to try something new and set goals for themselves, while still holding onto their traditions, their culture and their identity.”

Engineering-related activities for the students included workshops in cybersecurity, programming and technology using microbits (administered by Education Associate Professor Andrea Burrows and Computer Science Professor of Practice Mike Borowczak); coding and monitoring the environment with raspberry pi, which are small card-sized computers similar to an Intel processor (Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Suresh Muknahallipatna and Associate Professor Robert Kubichek); and a building challenge for a “gravity cruiser” with CEAS K-14 Project Coordinator Teddi Freedman and Coe Student Innovation Center Director Tyler Kerr.

Shaunita Nomee, 17, visited UW as part of the program. She lives in Hardin, Mont.

“I like it, especially because I don’t know of anything they offer like this in Montana,” she says. “It’s been really cool to have all the kids from different tribes come together. We stay in the dorms, we eat together and go to the workshops. It’s been great to get to know everyone. The environment here is really friendly and welcoming and everyone has been great.”

UW’s new Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center—and the programs it houses—are designed to support the academic and personal success of Native American students while promoting traditional culture. Under UW President Laurie Nichols and the university’s strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” increasing enrollment and success of Native American students is a UW priority.

Tendore reached out to Nomee to invite her to attend the program, and Nomee is glad she accepted.

“The experience has made me excited for college,” she says. “I’m still considering some options right now, and heading into my senior year. But seeing all the people on campus interacting with each other and supporting, I think I’m going to be OK when the time comes.”

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