Denver Minority Middle School Students To Take Part In Hands-On Engineering At CU

Published: July 1, 1999

More than 30 Denver minority middle school students and their parents will take part in a number of engineering tasks during the Success Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder July 8 and July 9.

The program will be held at the College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, a hands-on, $11 million facility for undergraduate research at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. The students from underrepresented groups include Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans and will work in teams to solve engineering problems and learn how to prepare for possible future careers in engineering.

The objective of the program is to encourage underrepresented students to pursue studies in engineering, math and science, said Interim Director Brian Hewlett of the Success in Engineering through Excellence and Diversity or SEED program. Formerly known as the Minority Engineering Program, the SEED program has been one of the most successful of its kind in the nation.

"Since the success of all students in our program is important, we have been emphasizing outreach to middle school and high school students in recent years," said Hewlett. "Our goal is to have underrepresented students more involved in engineering and math early on, so we are taking our program to the community."

The CU-Boulder students currently in SEED participate in extra evening "academic excellence workshops" in calculus, chemistry and physics as freshmen and sophomores and have a group study room for collaborating. Since the program’s inception in 1973, participating students have at times had cumulative grade point averages equal to or exceeding the entire freshman engineering class.

This year’s Success Institute is made possible by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats Division and Hewlett Packard. Additional support was provided by StorageTek. The college also helps to sponsor the Success Institute through the SEED program, the Women in Engineering Program and the Joint Center for Energy Management.

One activity at the ITLL facility this summer for middle school students will be a Global Position Satellite Scavenger Hunt, designed to let participants use hand-held receivers linked to orbiting satellites to pinpoint particular objects or people on campus.

The students also will take on a variety of other engineering experiments and learn about engineering from current CU engineering students, faculty and industry representatives, said Hewlett. The students will participate in "design and build" activities, planning their own experiments and collecting and analyzing data to present to other students and faculty. They also will explore the power of mathematics to solve real-world problems.

Parents of participating students also will meet with CU-Boulder staff members to discuss high school preparation, college tuition financing opportunities and strategies to increase the likelihood of their children’s success.

The students will be bused from Denver area schools and brought to campus where they will have a "college experience," including an overnight stay in residence halls, said Hewlett. This year, several students who went through last year’s Success Institute are returning to participate in a second phase of the program focusing on energy.

Now in its second year, the Success Institute has doubled in size. "It provided an opportunity to spend time with my child in an educational environment geared towards shaping her future," said one parent who participated in 1998. Another parent commented that "the institute has a specific focus to target, support, maintain and encourage students."