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High School Seniors Explore Engineering at UH

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Esmeralda Fisher
At STEP Forward Camp, high school seniors design a Popsicle-stick roller coaster.

Last week, the UH Cullen College of Engineering welcomed a group of high school students who spent a week exploring engineering at the STEP Forward Camp.

The weeklong program, led by the Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies (PROMES), gives rising high school seniors an inside look at engineering. The curriculum includes visits to Houston engineering firms, team-based projects and activities on campus. Future engineers get a glimpse of college life as they live in a UH dorm for the week, and interact with Cullen College faculty and engineering professionals to discuss academics, research and career options.

And there are many. An engineering degree opens doors to any field, said Katherine Perez, a UH chemical engineering sophomore, camp mentor and former STEP Forward camper. The purpose of the camp is to demonstrate that, with a degree in engineering, options are unlimited.

“Engineering works by opening your perspective on the world,” Perez said. “From there, you can do whatever you want with that knowledge – it’s up to you.”

Engineering is about applying scientific knowledge towards improvement, and engineering students work hard in preparation for that goal. Perez is interested in conducting engineering research that will directly inform efficiency and technological advancements in industrial practices.

Communication, teamwork, innovation and logic skills are especially important in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. That’s why a significant component of STEP Forward Camp involves working in groups to design solutions, including construction of Popsicle stick roller coasters. Applying a blend of diverse perspectives in teams represents the real strength of engineering, Perez noted.

Marcello Cirino, now studying mechanical engineering, was also a STEP Forward camper a few years ago. Engineering runs in his family: his father is an engineer and encouraged Cirino and his siblings, who are also UH electrical engineering students, to follow suit.

Cirino encourages new engineering students to get involved with PROMES, which he says “makes engineering easier. Connections are everything. It’s hard to succeed in a STEM major by yourself. It’s a lot easier when you have people to help you.”

PROMES connects engineering students with recruitment, academic advising, workshops, scholarships and job opportunities. The PROMES 40th Anniversary ‘Reconnection’ event will take place in 2014. 

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