Hispanic teens explore engineering at UA camp

July 9, 2007

By hammersmith

[Source: Konstantinos Kalaitzidis, Tucson Citizen] — Daniel Ortiz, 15, glued together pieces of wood and paper to make a glider. The San Miguel High School incoming sophomore was one of 40 Hispanic students from around Pima County getting a sense of what it takes to be an engineer. SciTech 2020 math and science camp at the University of Arizona gave them a good look in June with a combination of activities, brain teasers, projects and field trips. Ortiz said he went because “I want to find out what kind of engineer I want to be.”

This is the purpose of the camp, said Rafaela Schwan, director of programs for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, which co-organized the camp with the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference. The experience, which costs campers $10 for four days on UA’s campus, was sponsored by IBM. UA was one of three universities nationwide chosen to host the event because of its strong SHPE student and professional chapters, Schwan said. “Their (SHPE) presence gave us a strong base of volunteers to draw from,” she said. The other two sites were at University of Colorado at Boulder and California State University, Los Angeles, she said. The camp also introduced high school sophomores to the university environment, basic team-building exercises and information on how to apply for scholarships. Schwan said many college scholarships for Hispanic students go unused because students do not know such scholarships exist.

SciTech camper Elysha Vessey, 14, already knows she loves engineering. Her uncle, Ben Palma, is an engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems and is responsible for her love of math, she said. One of the activities during the week was breaking into teams and building gliders. Once finished, the teens took their engineering creations to the lawn in front of UA’s Old Main to see whose gliders flew the farthest and highest. Despite the hot June day, with temperatures higher than 100 degrees, they had a terrific time. “This camp has been great,” Elysha said. “I think they should do a lot more like it.”