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High School Students Learn
About Engineering Options
September 6, 1999

When high school students use words like "challenging" and "fun" to describe a summer learning experience, something out of the ordinary is definitely going on.

For the third consecutive year, the School of Engineering invited a group of highly motivated high school sophomores and juniors to spend a week learning about engineering and the choices available to them at the state's flagship university.

The 1999 summer program was forged from the experience of the past two years, when it was known as Mechanica 2000. "This year, we wanted to broaden the range of experiences for the students beyond just mechanical engineering," says Marty Wood, a lecturer in mechanical engineering, who acted as coordinator for the week's activities. "The advantages we have at UConn are a number of disciplines the kids can be exposed to. And more than just lectures, we wanted to be certain to offer a lot of hands-on activities, so they could really get a sense of what it's like to be an engineer."

Fifty sophomores and juniors from 28 different high schools across Connecticut attended this residential program. They were nominated by their principals for their high aptitudes in math and science. Wood says this year's students were a particularly motivated group.

After an opening reception and an exercise in the importance of team building, students received an overview each day in one of the six engineering disciplines offered at UConn. Guided throughout by undergraduate chaperones, students were also able to spend additional time reviewing daily experiments, visiting laboratories and learning about particular engineering professions.

The schedule also included extracurricular activities involving students, faculty and staff, to give the participants a well-rounded perspective on college life.

"For many of the kids, it was a brand new experience living in a dorm with their peers," says Wood.

Another key component of the week's activities was the Young Engineers Scholars Science program, or YESS, held each night after dinner. Before they arrived at Engineering 2000, all the students were asked to identify a specialized field of interest. They then received in-depth training in these areas to prepare them for an all-day workshop on Friday. Four of the School's departments participated in these activities, which gave students the opportunity to learn how to solve sophisticated problems in areas such as pendulum motion, thermal and fluid dynamics, building a random number generator, and learning to construct a sorting program for computers.

The cost of attending Engineering 2000 is subsidized by Connecticut-based industries and alumni, who provide most of the funding. This year, 10 students received sponsorships from Southern New England Telephone and Northeast Utilities.

"This program provides an opportunity for us to 'showcase' our school," says Amir Faghri, dean of the School of Engineering, "to illustrate what each of our professions does and to expose the students to the University of Connecticut."

Art Sorrentino