URI’s Summer Engineering Academy gives high school students a headstart on engineering education

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KINGSTON, R.I. – August 4, 2011 – Twenty-six high school students from throughout Rhode Island spent the month of July experiencing engineering first-hand as part of the University of Rhode Island’s Summer Engineering Academy.

The four-week academy was designed as a career exploration program to introduce students to engineering concepts and disciplines and give them a headstart on college level engineering coursework. The students earned 4 college credits for their participation.

“Sometimes students graduate with a degree in one engineering discipline and wish they had chosen another,” said Manbir Sodhi, URI professor of industrial engineering and director of the academy. “But by then it’s too late. This program gives students a chance to learn about engineering before enrolling in college and committing to a discipline. And it’s helping to fill the tremendous need for engineers in our society.”

Every day during the academy, students learned the basic concepts of engineering while working in teams to build simple machines. They completed projects related to electronics, mechanics, computer-aided design, and computer programming, among others. They also toured the CVS distribution center in North Smithfield, the A.T. Cross pen design facility in Lincoln, the Amtrol manufacturing site in West Warwick, and the Sakonnet River Bridge construction site in Tiverton. The final two days of the program found the students taking a final exam and building a robot that could set up a row of dominos.

“The plant tours were definitely the best part to me,” said Rachel Andronowitz of Narragansett. “It gave us a chance to see engineering applications in real life.”

“The tour of the Sakonnet River bridge project was my favorite part,” said Montara Erickson of Kingston. “I’ve always wanted to know how bridges are made, and this gave me the opportunity to see it happen.”

Several of the participating students, including Blaine Baker of Chepachet and Minh Pham of Woonsocket, said they chose to attend the academy to get an early start on their engineering education.

“I’m coming here to URI in the fall, and I’m going to have to take this class anyway, so by taking it this summer it will give me more time to do other things in the fall,” said Kevin Mathews of Wakefield.

“I enrolled because I wanted to figure out which engineering field I liked the best,” added Victoria Pinkerton of West Kingston. “I decided I like the idea of chemical engineering.”

Sodhi said that he hopes to add a residential option to next year’s Summer Engineering Academy to attract students from outside Rhode Island, including those from overseas.

“The energy the students have demonstrated this year has been incredible,” he said. “Next year we want to make it even bigger and better.”

Pictured above

High school students participating in the URI Summer Engineering Academy design and build a robot that can lay down a row of dominos. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.