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Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines

Laramie, WY 82071


UW Profiles

Engineering Summer Program Introduces High School Students to UW and the Field

By Michaela Myers

When it comes to the future of engineering, high school students play a big role. As the University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) moves toward its Tier 1 vision, attracting the best and brightest high school students is key.

“For the past two years a number of dedicated faculty, staff, advisory board members and UW administrators have worked diligently to translate Gov. Mead’s vision of a 21st century, world-class College of Engineering and Applied Science into an action plan,” says Steve Barrett, CEAS associate dean for academic programs.

One of the plan’s key ingredients is continued excellence in undergraduate education. CEAS has always been known for outstanding, ABET-accredited programs in a wide variety of engineering disciplines and computer science at an affordable cost. Initiatives within the Tier 1 plan will allow students to explore engineering and applied science at an earlier age, provide expanded avenues to attend UW programs and provide assistance to enrolled students.

One such program for early engagement already in existence is the Engineering Summer Program. For the past 26 years, high school juniors from around the country have come to UW to learn all about engineering from UW’s professors and graduate students.

The students live on campus, eat at Washakie Dining Center and choose from a variety of classes. “It’s very lab based and hands-on,” says Jeffrey Anderson, the program’s director and a lecturer in the UW Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The class sizes are about eight to 10 students, so it’s a really good opportunity to make some great connections. We try to cover many areas of engineering.”

Classes include subjects such as atmospheric science, where the students collect weather data from a unit attached to a balloon they send up and follow; electrical engineering, where the students learn to transmit audio signals over a laser beam and to program robots to complete tasks; composite materials, where students build and test their own materials; and computer-aided design, where they design things and print them on a 3-D printer.

The students also take an engineering field trip to an actual site. In the summer of 2014, the trip was to a Halliburton Co. hydraulic fracturing location. They also participate in group activities such as picnics and barbecues, skit nights and a trip to the UW planetarium.

“They form a lot of friendships that are very lasting,” Anderson says. “I often see groups of former Engineering Summer Program students who seem to connect when they come in as UW students, and they’re study buddies all the way through college.”

The high school students also learn what opportunities are available in engineering and make connections with UW faculty members.

“The goal is to introduce students to the fields of engineering and to UW,” says Laurie Bonini, recruiting coordinator for the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science. “They’re on campus, and they’re living like a student when they’re here. We want them to kind of feel that connection and get excited about being here. The other thing is just to introduce them to engineering as a potential field. They tend to be the strong math and science students who come to this, but they’re not really sure what engineering is. Or, if they are thinking engineering, they don’t know the difference between electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. This helps them learn a little bit about that.

“We’re getting some very top-level students to come here,” she continues, adding that an equal number of male and female students attend.
Student Perspective

“It’s so awesome just being in an environment where everyone is excited about learning and genuinely engaged and participating,” says Jessica Saffold of Aurora, Colo., who participated in the 2014 program, taking composite materials and computer science courses. “I think it’s really valuable that I get to have this experience and see more about what engineers do. Going in, I really had no idea. I think this was the perfect place to do it and on the side learn more about the school. After coming here, I’m definitely going to apply.”

One of her favorite experiences was the field trip. “It was a highlight for me to see first-hand what goes on,” Saffold says. “It was really cool to go there and see the machines they use. They do some amazing things. I think I’m a lot more grateful now, especially for energy and things like that after seeing the process it goes through to get it to us.”

Saffold is sure she wants to pursue engineering now, possibly chemical engineering. “I think it would be really cool to manufacture or create new pharmaceuticals,” she says.

Jeffrey Wen of Casper, Wyo., was considering either law or engineering before attending the summer program, but is now leaning toward engineering. “I like the idea of what goes on and the different possibilities engineering can provide,” he says.

Wen participated in electrical engineering and ATV classes during the program. “We looked at the math behind ATV design, so how to produce torque and power and speed,” he said of the ATV class during the program. “Yesterday we drove the ATV around and did different tests. We switched out the tires and the drivers and will graph that today.”

Duncan Gans of Lander, Wyo., also came to the Engineering Summer Program to learn more about engineering. “I’m really interested in math and science, and since engineering is a combination of those two, I wanted to come to the camp and see the different branches of engineering and whether or not I enjoyed it,” he says.

Gans took part in atmospheric science and curves and concrete, but one of his highlights was meeting the other students. “One of my favorite things is meeting all of the other kids who are equally passionate and invested in learning more about engineering as a whole,” he says.

Meghan McCarron of Firestone, Colo., took computer electronics and concrete classes during the summer program. “Curves and concrete is absolutely my favorite. I want to major in civil engineering when I go to college, and it’s been so much fun,” she says. The class included a trip to a job site where they met with the transportation design team.

McCarron enjoyed getting to know the UW professors. She wants to earn an engineering degree to make a difference in the world. “I really want to be involved in a program called Bridges to Prosperity,” she says. “Every year they choose a different third-world country, and they go and build foot bridges in rural, isolated communities. People go to third-world countries, and they think they need clean water, health care and education, but a lot of people don’t realize that just connecting a rural community to a major city with something as simple as a bridge can provide them with all of those things at once. So I really want to go be a chief engineer for that program and help the world in my own personal way.”
Alumni Outcomes

“I highly recommend this program to anyone, even if you’re not interested in engineering,” Saffold says. “I think this camp has really helped me to learn and grow as an individual.”

Beth Butler of Douglas, Wyo., winner of the Joint Engineering Council’s Outstanding Senior award, graduated from UW with her degree in chemical engineering May 2014. She originally attended the Engineering Summer Program in 2009. “This camp provided a great environment for me to figure out what type of engineering I liked and to meet friends that I would have for the rest of college,” she says. “I participated in the civil and chemical engineeringclasses where I got a taste of those disciplines.

“The Engineering Summer Program definitely influenced my decision to become an engineer,” Butler continues. “It showed me that UW cares about its students and that it has a good program. UW has been the perfect school for me.”

High school juniors can apply to next year’s program with a deadline in late March 2015. Thanks to sponsorships from the Wyoming Engineering Society, the J. Kenneth and Pat Kennedy Endowment, Mr. Paul N. Scherbel, Halliburton, the UW Office of Summer Session and Winter Courses, and the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science, tuition, room and board is just $200 for the entire week.

“Any student considering the program should jump at the chance,” Butler says. “Even if a student isn’t sure about doing engineering, it is a great opportunity to find out more about UW and meet some neat people that think like you do.”

She adds, “The Engineering Summer Program is one of my highlights from high school, and I know it helped me get where I am today.”

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1000 E University Ave

Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines

Laramie, WY 82071


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