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Engineering Students Travel to Brazil for Outreach

By: 

Esmeralda Fisher

Members of two UH organizations brought engineering to Brazilian high school students last month as part of their global outreach efforts.

“One Day in Engineering” (“Um Dia na Engenharia”) was planned by Gabriela Bernardes, mechanical engineering, Society of Women Engineers (SWE-UH) Outreach Chair; Ingrid Arambula, chemical engineering, SWE-UH President; Analicia Caylor, petroleum engineering, SWE-UH VP External; and Zarina Hudaybergenova, petroleum engineering, President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers UH chapter.

The event took place over two days in the town of Teresopolis, near Rio de Janeiro. Approximately 100 high school students from five area schools participated in workshops and practical applications of engineering principles, designed to demonstrate the opportunities in engineering careers.

Four engineering fields were represented during the event. For electrical engineering, students were introduced to electronic concepts with circuit bingo. For mechanical, they learned about friction forces and balance by designing a device to rapidly carry a ping pong ball across a zip line. Chemical engineering was represented with principles of heat transfer by making ice cream, and petroleum engineering was demonstrated with porosity using beads and a jar, and viscosity by making a lava lamp.

SWE-UH has been recognized by the Engineering Alumni Association for the Best Outreach Event award two years in a row, with the Launch into Engineering event, in which local high school students came to UH for engineering workshops. The group wanted to expand their outreach efforts to an international level, and “One Day in Engineering” was planned in collaboration with Projeto Social Nadir Furtado, a non-profit organization in Brazil that offers support, counseling and workshops to families in the community.

Bernardes is from Brazil, and her family runs the charity, which was created by her grandmother 40 years ago."

The group received favorable feedback from the students, who reported that the event was a game changer for their academic plans. “The students said they would always remember this event,” Caylor said. “It opened up their minds and they saw a better future for themselves. Some are now considering engineering as their major.”

Bernardes relied on members of her family who are professional engineers to assist with the workshops, and friends who are studying engineering themselves also volunteered. Word about the event spread throughout the town, and the group could see a positive impact.

Outreach events of this type are uncommon in Brazil, said Bernardes, making this event even more significant to the students of Teresopolis, and demonstrating why it is so important to highlight the opportunities in engineering.

Caylor became interested in engineering after she took part in a similar outreach event as an 8th grade student. “Engineering seemed more substantial, more interesting, more challenging,” she said. She was convinced that petroleum engineering was the right choice for her when a representative from the Society of Petroleum Engineers visited her school. “I thought that was the coolest thing, combining geology, chemistry and math,” she said.

Arambula was excited to share her excitement about engineering with younger students. “For us to be able to do this, to go into Gabriela’s hometown and show children the different options they have and what the world can offer them, it’s really inspiring to see their excitement for the event,” she said.

The group is already planning next summer’s trip to Brazil.

Although representing different majors in engineering, the SWE members all agree on one thing: they strongly recommend joining a student organization to be successful in UH Engineering.

“The organizations that we have here and the sense of family that UH offers, especially the PROMES program, is what sets UH apart from other schools,” said Arambula. “Dr. Zerda and Mr. Matthews always encourage their students to go above and beyond. Your studies are a priority, and that’s what they focus on, but they always make sure that you’re a well-rounded engineer.”

SWE-UH is a very active organization, with a strong list of officers and a professional, get-things-done philosophy.

“I joined SWE in my freshman year in the first couple of weeks, and I don’t know where I would be without it,” Bernardes said. “This is where I made friends, where I got career advice and contacts for internships, so it’s really helped me be a part of something.”

“When you graduate, [companies] want to see good grades, and someone who can lead and who is experienced,” Caylor said. “Organizations give you a chance to lead in all types of positions, and provide lots of resources to develop your professionalism. When we graduate from UH, we’ll have the skills to become leaders and problem-solvers.”

Engineering students are invited to the SWE-UH first general meeting of the semester with Schlumberger, Thursday, September 5, at 7:00 p.m. in E223.

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