Students and teachers from the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) got a taste of college life during a week-long summer engineering program held last week at California State University East Bay (CSUEB).
The Discover Engineering Summer Residency Program provided 29 students and five teachers from WCCUSD with an opportunity to stay on campus in a university dorm and explore a full range of engineering-related learning activities. Another 30 students and five teachers from the Antioch, Mt. Diablo and Pittsburg school districts also participated in the program.
CSUEB, which has a proven track record of leading efforts to encourage more students to pursue engineering degrees, played a vital role in making the program a success. Faculty and administrators from CSUEB participated throughout the week, offering guidance and support to the students.
Students received career advice and inspiration from industry professionals representing companies and public agencies, including Chevron, SunPower, Autodesk, East Bay MUD, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and Tesoro.
The professional development connection was made possible through a partnership with the Contra Costa Economic Partnership (CCEP), a coalition of business, education and public sector leaders dedicated to promoting economic vitality and quality of life in the East Bay.
April Treece, STEM Workforce Initiative Director for CCEP, was wowed by the impact the program had on the students.
“The return on investment from this program will benefit our Contra Costa schools and students for years to come,” said Treece. “This program demystified the college experience and provided real world experience for so many young people, many for whom may be first-generation college-going students.”
Students participated in hands-on laboratory workshops with university professors and worked in teams to complete engineering challenges, including building and programming a mechanical robot and designing and constructing a bridge made from balsa wood.
Students were tested on the quality of their engineering skills by autonomously controlling the robot through a winding course, which included crossing a bridge and then testing its strength through the use of weights. To complete the project, the student engineers had to analyze and evaluate the best practices and challenges encountered during the week-long design effort. They presented their findings to an industry panel of judges at Friday’s concluding event.
The students were selected competitively based on their participation in Project Lead the Way and MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), two leading STEM programs offered at their schools and supported by Chevron.
“The kids were very excited to leave West Contra Costa and have a real college experience while working alongside university professors and their CSUEB engineering ambassadors, industry professionals, and students from all over Contra Costa,” said Andrea Bailey, Community Engagement Manager for Chevron’s Richmond Refinery, which contributed $130,000 to support the program. “We are committed to this program and hope to have more kids participate next year.”
Tesoro, which operates a refinery in Contra Costa County, also provided funding to support the program.