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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hispanic engineers society invite HS students to campus

Latino high school students interested in engineering came to the UA on Friday to learn about teamwork and the importance of diversity in the field of science.

More than 150 students from five different high schools in Tucson came as part of the UA’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers’ outreach efforts to encourage students from Hispanic backgrounds to stay in school and move forward with their education.

The club hosted the event in the Grand Ballroom in the Student Union Memorial Center. It was sponsored by IBM and Raytheon Missile Systems.

“I think we do this because a lot of people who are attending this will be the first generation in their family to go to college,” said Johana Guzman, an engineering sophomore and vice president of the SHPE. “So I think it is really important for them to have that support group to say, ‘We can do it together.’”

The event is a combination of two outreach programs, The Advancement of Latinos in Engineering and Young Latina Forum, that the club conducts each year. The Young Latina Forum, which is geared toward female students interested in engineering, has been held at the UA for the last 26 years. The Advancement of Latinos in Engineering is a program for men that has been hosted on campus for seven years. This is the second time both programs were held together on the same day.

“I challenged them to do something like this for Latinos in engineering about seven years ago because they had already had a strong female group,” said James Valenzuela, keynote speaker at the event, UA alumnus and engineer for Raytheon. “And in my opinion they have surpassed every single expectation I had for it, and it’s great.”

During the beginning of the day, girls and boys participating in the event were split up to work on projects dealing with different aspects of engineering. The girls learned chemical engineering principles by making a body scrub and also worked on understanding aerospace concepts by participating in a paper plane building challenge.

“In high school I went to an event like this and people told me I could go to college and be an engineer,” Guzman said. “Today is a day to influence a younger generation to do the same.”

The boys also participated in hands-on projects by building towers made out of dry spagetti and worked on creating a mechanical claw made out of a yardstick, string and paper. Ricardo Trevino, a systems engineering junior and vice president of the SHPE, said the projects are developed to excite students about science and higher education.

“We hope these students can get the most out of this opportunity,” Trevino said. “This is something we will continue to do for students and hopefully they will choose the UA and engineering.”

At the end of the day, club members combined the boys and girls into groups to design and promote their own autonomous vehicle, a car that can drive without an operator. Larry Head, department head for Systems and Industrial Engineering, said the final project, as well as the entire event, is to help get students thinking creatively about engineering.

“This is really an equal opportunity process, engineering,” Head said. “In fact, if we don’t have a diverse group of people solving problems, it is impossible to get solutions.”

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