Activities & Organizations News

High school students discover engineering’s diverse fields

The courts of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center were buzzing with life Friday, but not for the reasons you might expect.

High school students used the courts to learn more about the different fields of engineering during Launch into Engineering, an event sponsored by the UH Society of Women Engineers. Visiting students explored interactive booths, listened to a guest speaker and entered a raffle.

“A lot of times, these students don’t really know what engineering is,” chemical engineering senior Ricardo Sosa, who’s also outreach committee member for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at UH, said. “They don’t know what they’re getting into.”

The event, geared toward high school sophomores and juniors, featured hands-on activities and workshops to showcase eight areas of study offered by the Cullen College of Engineering.

“We want boys and girls to be able to explore the disciplines of engineering,” chemical engineering junior and SWE outreach chair Ruqaiya Shipchandler said. “I think every gender benefits from that.”

Five engineering organizations had booths showcasing the different disciplines of engineering through short activities, such as model building and an air cannon demonstration. The exercises were designed to contrast five areas of engineering and spark engagement with the 110 students in attendance from three high schools in the Houston area.

“I think (Launch into Engineering) really lets us relate to the students and get them exposed to the fields and disciplines,” Sosa said. “It kind of guides them if they’re interested in going into engineering. It gives them a little bit of an idea of what each discipline does, and they can make a better decision once they go off to college.”

Launch into Engineering also featured a guest speaker: mechanical engineering senior Christina Dillon. In addition to her work as a NASA intern, Dillon won the title of Miss Austin 2016 for her platform centered on encouraging girls to pursue engineering.

“The major underlying cause is getting to women and minorities in general because that is where we’re really lagging,” Dillon said. “Diversity leads to innovation.”

Dillon emphasized the importance of connecting high school students to others who can give them a clearer picture of what the engineering field has to offer.

“Outreach is really important because it gives you a better perspective on life in general. You really don’t know exactly what you want to do. So you go out there and you meet people and you talk to people,” Dillion said.

Years ago, an SWE outreach event like this one ignited Shipchandler’s passion for engineering.

“I wanted to give back to the school that I came from because that’s where I decided to be an engineer,” Shipchandler said.

At last year’s event, student interest in pursuing a career in engineering increased by 18 percent after students attended SWE’s Launch into Engineering, according to UH SWE’s collected data.

“At (Launch into Engineering), if the students think that engineering is too hard, they learn that it’s not,” Shipchandler said. “You don’t have to be insanely smart. If you’re interested, go for it. Don’t think it’s impossible.”

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