Inspiring Future Engineers
The goal of the Engineering Summer Program is to inspire future engineers. For one week in June, high school students take classes and experience the world of engineering. This program is generously supported by the Wyoming Engineering Society, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the UW Summer Session and Winter Courses, and Halliburton, a leading oilfield services company.
“We found that lots of students really have no idea what engineers do or what kind of careers and job opportunities exist. They often do not realize that engineering affects nearly all aspects of our lives,” says Jeff Anderson, director of the Engineering Summer Program. “So we try to show them that.”
This year marks the program’s 27th year. It is open to high school juniors from anywhere in Wyoming. There has also been participants from Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Virginia, California, Montana, and Utah during the past two years. While participating in the program, students receive hands-on experiences in various engineering fields, stay in the dorms, and eat at Washakie Dining Center—an experience that also prepares them for life in college.
This year, 36 students will have the opportunity to attend classes in a wide range of subjects. Topics include electrical engineering, where they can learn about microcontrollers, communications, electric motors, and robotics. If they are interested in atmospheric investigations, they will also have the chance to conduct experiments with a weather balloon.
There are also classes in computer electronics; computer science, where they get a chance to learn basic programming skills to create movies and simple video games with 3D objects and characters; curves and concrete, where they use geometry and trigonometry to design highway curves; composite materials; ATV design; and furniture design and engineering.
“When they participate in these classes, they see what engineers do. They learn of the many great career opportunities that are available for engineers. They enter college with a better focus on their studies and a better perspective of career goals,” explains Anderson
Classes are taught by engineering faculty and graduate students. The attendees decide what they want to focus on and then attend morning and afternoon sessions. In the evenings, they tour campus, including the labs at the Energy Innovation Center, and talk to researchers.
The Engineering Summer Program doesn’t have petroleum and chemical engineering classes, but students still get a chance to learn about the industry. Thanks to support from Halliburton, students have the opportunity to tour a working fracking site. Halliburton was founded in 1919 by Erle P. Halliburton and is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry.
“We are proud to support the Engineering Summer Program,” said Cindy Bigner, Halliburton’s senior director of Corporate Affairs and Diversity Initiatives. “It is important that we work closely with educators to introduce students to the many potential careers in engineering. Giving these students the opportunity to see engineers at work can only help them and the industry in the future.”
Halliburton’s support of the program has made a huge difference in the field trips the program takes. Prior to Halliburton’s generosity, students loaded onto a yellow school bus with no air conditioning and ate a lunch of sub sandwiches in a park with no shelter. Thanks to Halliburton, they now travel in style and eat in restaurants, which makes a significant impact on the students. They also get the chance to see engineers in their working environment performing job duties, which gives them an idea of what they can expect in a workplace.
The Wyoming Engineering Society, with over 700 members, has been a major supporter of the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science throughout the 95-year history of the association. In 1999, the members of WES voted to make a significant annual contribution to the Engineering Summer Program.
“During a major event at the recent WES annual convention, the WES president, an alumnus of the Engineering Summer Program, asked for a show of hands of anyone who also had the opportunity to experience engineering through ESP. The number of raised hands was overwhelming,” says Joe Lord, WES Executive Director.
The support of Halliburton, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, UW Academic Affairs, UW Summer Session and Winter Courses, the Wyoming Engineering Society, the Kennedy Endowment, and Paul Scherbel makes this program possible.
“Quite honestly, the program wouldn’t exist without the sponsors,” says Anderson. “A big thanks for the support because we really couldn’t do it if any of the main sponsors pulled out. It would really cripple the program. We appreciate what they do and the sacrifices they make for us.”
This collaboration between public and private entities ensures that students receive the tools and resources they need to be successful. It gives them a head start in their education and their careers. Most importantly, it helps them form relationships.
According to Anderson, students who participate in this program often form study groups that last through college. In addition, they get to know the professors and the University of Wyoming.
“One thing we try to do is have them build relationships with faculty so when they’re trying to decide where they want to go study, they already have a connection at the University of Wyoming,” says Anderson.
Engineering Summer Program students play with a helicopter during their week of classes.