Colorado High School Students Build Boats And Launch Careers At 'Spring Fling 2000'

Published: April 11, 2000

Is it possible to build a boat out of plastic jugs, wood furring strips and duct tape in only one hour, and then use it for transportation? That's what hundreds of high school students across the state are eager to find out during the Seagate-sponsored Colorado Math Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Spring Fling 2000, set this year at the University of Colorado at Boulder, April 17-18.

Before entering the CU-Boulder campus swimming pool, MESA-member students will use their knowledge of physics, mechanics and hydrodynamics to create a vessel they hope will carry them 50 yards across the surface of the pool. Assisted by at least a dozen engineers who specialize in designing computer disc drives at Seagate Technology in Longmont, students will build the vessels as if they were high-tech products on their way to market.

The boat-building contest, which is a highlight of the two-day Spring Fling, will begin at 7:15 p.m. on Monday, April 17, at the Student Recreation Center. Students will have 30 minutes to design their boats and another 30 minutes to build them before the race begins.

The Colorado MESA Spring Fling is an annual tradition for high school students who participate in the program throughout the year. This year's event, hosted by CU-Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science, is expected to draw several hundred students from throughout Colorado, including students from Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

Colorado MESA is part of a national network of MESA organizations, which are run independently but have the same mission. Like its counterparts in seven other states, Colorado MESA's goal is to identify academic potential in minority students as early as elementary school and to work with them through high school, helping them meet college-entry requirements. Formed in 1979 with 30 students, Colorado MESA now has 2,880 students from 119 schools throughout the state.

"Our MESA program is truly dedicated to giving every child a chance to have the best possible career," said Floyd Boyard, Colorado MESA chairman. "And we're achieving that goal, one student at a time. Without a program like this, many very talented young students might not even consider a high-tech degree, let alone have the career and educational guidance they need to pursue one."

Seagate is a long-time supporter of Colorado MESA, through employee mentoring programs and ongoing funding. "We believe very strongly in the mission of MESA," said David Armstead, staffing manager of Seagate in Longmont. "One of the best things about the organization is its effort to bring bright, young students -- who might not otherwise have the chance -- together with universities and corporations who care about their professional futures. And just like CU, we hope the futures of these people will be with organizations like ours."

In addition to hosting the event and providing tours of campus, CU-Boulder has invited several of its students to hold a panel discussion with MESA participants. Panelists will discuss education and career opportunities.

"It has been our long-time desire to hold an annual event with Colorado MESA," said David Aragon, director of the Success in Engineering through Excellence and Diversity (SEED) program at CU-Boulder. "A lot of our current students were active in Colorado MESA when they were in high school."

Like the SEED program, which focuses on the recruitment and retention of minority students in engineering at CU-Boulder, Colorado MESA focuses on students

who are underrepresented in high-tech careers. More than 85 percent of its members are ethnic minority or female. MESA advisers encourage students to enroll in college prep courses in high school. MESA students are supported with career and financial aid information and have opportunities to meet and talk with role models in the corporate community.

Seagate’s Longmont location is the headquarters for the company’s Personal Storage Group, which develops and markets solutions for desktop and PC markets, and develops consumer applications. The company’s worldwide headquarters is in Scotts Valley, Calif.