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UW Engineering Summer Program Students Excel in Math, Science

June 21, 2012
Students driving buggy
University of Wyoming Engineering Summer Program participants watch as students Chris Romanjenko, right, of Story, and Evan Blum, left, of Boulder, Colo., drive a moon buggy made by students in UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. (UW Photo)

Among their high school peers, these students know they’re in the minority.

But participants in the University of Wyoming’s Engineering Summer Program this week are spending time with people who all have something in common: They enjoy and excel in the study of math and science.

As a result of their academic success, the 36 incoming high school seniors from across Wyoming and beyond are already being recruited by colleges and universities -- including UW -- around the country. Several of the students say they’re using the weeklong summer program to both explore potential areas of study in college and learn about UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“I know I want to study in a math and science field, but I don’t know which major yet,” says Karolin Golding of Evanston. “It’s really wide open for me.”

Fellow Evanston High School student Trae Travitz says he’s considering college studies in either engineering or medicine.

Both are being recruited by numerous colleges and universities, and both say UW is one of their top options as they prepare for their final year of high school. Travitz was impressed to hear about plans for a major upgrade of facilities -- particularly high-tech laboratories -- for the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“This is already a cool facility, but it will be even cooler if there’s newer technology,” Travitz says.

During this week’s program, the 36 students -- selected from a field of 89 students who applied for the competitive program -- have been taking part in hands-on laboratory activities in a variety of engineering disciplines. Working directly with UW engineering faculty members, the students have taken classes in robotics, atmospheric investigations, computer electronics, graphical communication, green architecture, composite materials and others.

They’ve also been having some fun.University of Wyoming engineering graduate student Adam Karges explains the operation of a moon buggy made by UW engineering students to UW Engineering Summer Program participants Chris Romanjenko of Story, left, and Evan Blum of Boulder, Colo. (UW Photo)

On Tuesday in Prexy’s Pasture, the students took turns using the college’s Segway two-wheeled transport machine. They did the same with a human-powered moon buggy created by UW engineering students for last years’ NASA Great Moonbuggy Race at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Recent UW graduate Adam Karges, one of several graduate and undergraduate students assisting with the summer program, showed the students how to drive the moon buggy. He says it’s helpful to show high school students specific examples of projects they could be involved in if they come to UW to study engineering.

Karges, who is beginning his master’s degree studies in mechanical engineering, came to UW after graduating from high school in Grand Rapids, Minn. During high school, he stopped by UW on the same trip he took to visit the Colorado School of Mines and the South Dakota School of Mines. Karges knew he would choose UW “after my first day on campus.”

“I just knew this was the place for me. I couldn’t believe how affordable it was, and what you get for your money here,” he says. “If I had the same decision to make, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Karges says he’s doing his best to show the summer program participants what UW has to offer engineering students. So is Caitlin Lefebvre, an incoming senior in UW’s Department of Chemical Engineering, who began her college career as a pharmacy major. She enjoys chemical engineering because of the chance to use math and participate in problem solving.

“I’ve made a lot of friends in the college,” says Lefebvre, from Fort Collins, Colo. “It’s nice being able to spend time with students who have the same interests as I do.”

That’s the idea behind the Engineering Summer Program, says Jeff Anderson, a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who directs the program.

"It's a great opportunity for them to get a close look at the fields of study they may want to pursue, and for us to show them what UW has to offer,” he says.

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