Expanded Success Institute Helps Rural And Minority Students Prepare For Engineering Careers

Published: June 12, 2000

Nearly 100 underrepresented rural and minority high school students from Denver, Boulder and St. Vrain Valley schools will get the chance to be engineering students at CU-Boulder June 21-24 through an expansion of the popular Success Institute.

A hands-on engineering outreach program of CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the Success Institute was piloted in 1998 and 1999 with the goal of expanding the number of underrepresented students who successfully study engineering and computer science. The program has doubled in size this year due to a high level of interest among participants and support from a variety of donors and government organizations.

The program’s sponsors this year include Roche Colorado, the Colorado Institute of Technology, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and the National Science Foundation.

Students entering the ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grades this fall were selected by their teachers to participate in the program, which includes engineering design-and-build workshops in the world-class Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory. Students will stay overnight in a campus residence hall and interact with engineering students and faculty throughout the program.

Ninth- and 10th-graders will be on campus for two days of workshops, while students entering the 11th-grade will participate in a more advanced, four-day program.

Eleventh-graders, some of whom will be returning to the program for their third year, will work in teams to build an electromechanical model house. The students will use their technical skills and imaginations to design rooms incorporating computer-activated functions such as opening doors and turning on appliances.

David Aragon, director of the Success in Engineering through Excellence and Diversity program in the college, said he hopes that helping young students to understand what engineering is all about will get them excited about engineering as a career choice.

All of the students will make technical presentations to an audience of their parents on Saturday, June 24, the final day of the program. Parents also will receive information about college admissions, financial aid and other topics so they will be able to support their students in continuing on to college.

"We are giving these students and their parents hands-on appreciation of math, science and engineering applications and career opportunities so they can make informed choices and prepare themselves if they decide to pursue a career in any of these fields," said program co-director John Matthews.

A retired African-American engineer who previously served as IBM executive-on-loan to the SEED program, Matthews also represents a community-based group of minority professionals and educators who want to improve opportunities for inner-city youth.