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Next-Generation Engineers Find Their Niche at the IEEE TryEngineering Summer Institute

More than 150 students learned about STEM topics

4 min read
Three girls smiling with their Mario Kart themed light sculpture.
Students at the IEEE TryEngineering Summer Institute show off their hands-on project.
Photo: TryEngineering Summer Institute

THE INSTITUTEHigh school senior Jonathan Mesidor loves to take electronics apart, see how they work, and put them back together again. Middle schooler Jacqueline Pena Gomez likes to find solutions to real-world problems such as making travel safer. Both explored disciplines such as aerospace engineering, civil engineering, and electrical engineering as participants in the IEEE TryEngineering Summer Institute, held from 7 to 20 July at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens, N.Y.

The program introduces students in grades 8 through 12 to the fields of engineering and technology during a two-week-long, on-campus, residential program held at three U.S. universities. The IEEE-designed curriculum includes team-based, hands-on design projects, guest speakers, academic preparation tips, and field trips.

There were 41 other students who attended the session at Vaughn with Mesidor and Gomez. A total of 155 students participated in all of the sessions, which were also held at Texas A&M University in College Station and the University of California, Riverside.

STUDENT EXPERIENCES

Mesidor is a student at Northeast High School in Philadelphia. “As a youngster, I began taking everything apart,” he says. “My dad would help me by finding an old, remote-controlled car and then buy the same one new so I could disassemble them and compare the cars’ parts. Then I would repair the old, broken one.”

His uncle, an electrical engineer, further piqued his interest in engineering by introducing Mesidor to Ohm’s law, which deals with the relationship between voltage and current in an ideal conductor, and encouraged him to focus his studies on math. Mesidor’s teachers also inspired him to pursue engineering as a career. John Danihel, the high school’s physics and AP research teacher, taught Mesidor about kinetic energy.His social studies teacher, Andrew Adams, was the one who told him about the IEEE program.

As soon as he heard about the summer institute, Mesidor knew it would be a great place to learn more about mechatronic interdisciplinary engineering. He has a wide variety of interests, encompassing both mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, as well as physics and the history of technology.

Mesidor says the hands-on project he liked best was building a drone.

“I really liked soldering the battery, lights, and motor together,” he says. “They held together well, unlike how I used to rig them before I learned how to solder.”

Learning to code was another project. “I learned things here that we don’t have the chance to study in school—or even in the engineering club I participate in,” he says. “I also learned to communicate better, work in groups, and interact with people I never met before. We helped each other out.”

At just 13 years old, Gomez knows her career path will be in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, helping to solve real-world problems such as burglary by securing hotel room door handles using a fingerprint. She’s a member of the coding club and other STEM-related programs offered by her school, Red Bank Middle School in New Jersey, but she wanted to learn more. Gomez’s science teacher, Kristen Maiello, told her about the IEEE program, and her parents encouraged her to attend.

“I wanted to learn more about engineering overall to help me decide what areas of technology to study and what fields interest me the most, Gomez says. “TryEngineering sounded like the best way to do that.”

She really enjoyed learning 3D printing and being able to keep the projects the students made.

“I know more about 3D printing and circuits, and I learned about coding and how to apply all of these skills,” she says. “When I go back to school in September, I will be more advanced than the other students.”

She values working with students of different ages and backgrounds, noting, “Teamwork was encouraged on all the projects. The interpersonal skills I learned will help me in college and in my career.”

MEET THE TEACHERS

Just as enthusiastic about the summer institute and the impressive students participating were Branded Camp Services executive director Douglas Murphy, IEEE’s partner responsible for running the camps, and Program Director Antonio Del Valle, an adjunct professor at John Jay College, in New York City. Both volunteered as teachers for the camp.

In the classroom, the students worked together in small groups, supervised by Del Valle and other engineers who also volunteered.

“The summer institute keeps the sparks of curiosity going and fans the flames for new ideas,” Del Valle says. “Here, students learn how to problem-solve and troubleshoot, as well as gain insight on what it is like to study engineering in a college atmosphere.”

Students explored how science affects the world around us in a fun, hands-on environment with like-minded peers, according to Del Valle.

SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE

Donations to the IEEE Foundation, IEEE’s charitable partner, helped provide need-based scholarships for 30 students to attend. Awards are based on demonstrated financial need, a student essay, and two letters of recommendation. Financial support came from individuals, organizations, and 12 IEEE societies and councils, which helped make attending the program a reality for students with varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Several recipients said that because of their family’s financial situation, attending this “eye-opening” and “life-changing” program would not have been possible without the scholarship.

“The scholarship program created a powerful opportunity for students to try on a new future,” Murphy says. They got to study engineering at the high-level, and explore possible career options as well as experience life on a college campus. The best part of the fully immersive experience were the possibilities that opened up the moment they stepped on campus.

“From very humble beginnings, these students are forever changed and are now headed down new paths. I am thrilled and humbled to be part of this endeavor and look forward to the expansion of the program to even more students.”

For information on how to donate to the scholarship program, contact the IEEE Foundation at donate@ieee.org. For more information and to learn about volunteering, visit the program website or contact Burt Dicht, director of student and academic educational programs with IEEE Educational Activities, at b.dicht@ieee.org or +1 732 981 3419.

Scholarships for the TryEngineering Summer Institute are funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation’s Realize the Full Potential of IEEE Campaign.

Karen Kaufman is the senior foundation communications manager for the IEEE Foundation.

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