Santa Clara University

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Teens Get a Glimpse of Engineering

Students enjoyed a site visit to Flextronics.
Students enjoyed a site visit to Flextronics.
Photo courtesy of Flextronics

Before heading back to school this week, some lucky high schoolers had a chance to come and live on campus at Santa Clara University, meeting new friends, living in a dorm, eating in the dining commons, attending classes, and staying up late talking, laughing, and working on group projects, while also learning about the engineering profession and the academic expectations of a university engineering program.  Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the School of Engineering’s Summer Engineering Seminar was created to motivate young, mostly underrepresented students to consider studying science and engineering in college and ultimately participate in the scientific and technical workforce.

This year, the highly competitive program drew 530 applicants from 26 U.S. states and 5 foreign countries who vied for the 80 available spots. For five days, two groups of forty students lived and breathed Bronco engineering at no charge to them, thanks to the generosity of Flextronics and The Carl and Celia Gellert Foundation.

Ice breakers and a campus photo scavenger hunt introducing the newbies to the engineering classrooms, labs, and other places of interest on campus helped everyone acclimate to their new environment. Throughout the session, students attended classes focused on the five disciplines—bio, civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering—offered at Santa Clara, investigated their own fields of interest in elective workshops (robotics, materials science, tissue engineering, and others), enjoyed swimming, soccer, and various recreational activities, and took part in small group discussions focused on what it’s like to be an engineering student, led by current engineering student dorm counselors.

SES students at Flextronics
Photo courtesy of Flextronics
To put what they were learning into context, a field trip to Flextronics (Fortune Global 500 company, with annual revenue of US $26 billion!) exposed the teens to a world-class engineering operation through tours of the company’s new product introduction building, advanced automation development center, and more. Here, they saw engineers designing and working to bring its customer’s products to market. Flextronics Vice President and General Manager – Innovation Labs Greg McNeil and Chief Technology Officer Erik Volkerink spoke about the excitement of developing products we will all be clamoring for two years from now—smart software, bendable/stretchable/rechargeable batteries, to name just a couple—and the “adrenaline rush of bringing different products to different markets,” before they and other Flextronics employees fielded questions from the eager audience.

On campus, the students took on a design challenge with vigor and enthusiasm. Junk Pile Wars, always a favorite activity of the week, had teams sifting through a stash of cast-off materials to create the best potato launcher—catapult or slingshot. Ingenuity and teamwork, combined with new-found engineering skills led to some very creative and effective designs.

“It’s amazing to see the impact the SES program has on participants as they depart Santa Clara after just one short week,” said Shane Wibeto, Program Coordinator and Senior Administrative Assistant to Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Ruth Davis. “Not only do they form strong and lasting bonds with each other, with student counselors and program faculty, but they also walk away with an enhanced curiosity for all of the possibilities the study of engineering can provide, as well as genuine excitement for their future part to play in the field."
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