For the third year in a row, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) awarded the UH ASME student section a Diversity Action Grant (DAG) for the student-run “Intro to Cougar Engineering” STEM outreach initiative.
The competitive DAG Program specifically targets student initiatives that promote the inclusion of women and underrepresented minorities in mechanical engineering, inspire K-12 students to excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, assist minority and women-owned businesses to solve engineering challenges, and assist developing communities with service learning design projects.
The Cullen College’s “Intro to Cougar Engineering” event, or ICE, fosters enthusiasm for STEM fields by introducing high school students to engineering principles through a hands-on design competition. ICE also seeks partnerships with high schools located in low income areas with diverse student populations, ensuring that female and minority students have the opportunity to participate in the event.
The ICE initiative began to take shape three years ago led by Christopher Ortega, a graduate mechanical engineering student at the Cullen College, and Li Sun, the ASME faculty advisor and an associate professor of mechanical engineering.
“The main purpose [of ICE] is to encourage high school students to consider going into STEM programs,” said Sun. “Engineering education is important and it leads to a good career. So, we want these students to know what cool things engineers can do.”
Ortega, a native Houstonian, said that giving back to the local community was part of the motivation to begin this program. “When I give back to the community, I’m giving back to my neighbors,” he said.
Over the past three years, students from the Spring school district have participated in the event. This year, ICE is further expanding its horizons by partnering with Robert Turner High School in Pearland and Ball High School in Galveston.
Last spring, 150 high school students attended the two-day design competition and over 40 students from the University of Houston volunteered to welcomed attendees, judge the design competition and serve as project managers for the high school student teams.
“We could never have 150 high school students without help from the student volunteers,” said Sun. “I’ve been extremely impressed by their willingness to help.”
“Though [ICE] is a big event to coordinate, it’s a great thing for ASME students to do because they get a lot of practice managing a really complex project,” Ortega added.
Ortega and Sun are still both involved with the program, though Ortega has stepped out of a leadership role so that the next generation of ASME students can take the reins on the event in the future.
Anthony Carbone currently serves as the chairman of the UH ASME student section and David Molina serves as the outreach chairman.
Carbone said he’s committed to ICE because the program provides him and fellow ASME students the opportunity to introduce the "STEM lifestyle" to students who may be completely unfamiliar with engineering.
“At the end of the event, the high school students are proud of their work and often recognize that they have what it takes to pursue engineering,” he said.
The spring’s ICE event will take place on April 1, 2016 at the University of Houston’s Recreational Center. To learn more about the ICE program and how you can get involved, please contact David Molina at dmolina16 [at] gmail [dot] com.
ASME is a not-for-profit organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment, and skills development across all engineering disciplines, toward a goal of helping the global engineering community develop solutions to benefit lives and livelihoods. The organization boasts 140,000 members across 151 countries. Thirty-thousand of these members are students.