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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


High school to higher ed

Janice Biancavilla
Janice Biancavilla / Arizona Daily Wildcat (Left to right) Kevin Lohmeier, Casey Odom, and Michael Ross examine a model airplane near the wind tunnel in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building. Highschool students from Sabino Canyon High School who are enrolled in Engineering 102 as students in the science technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM initiative, toured the building Tuesday.

The UA will expand its programs that introduce students to college-level science and engineering while still in high school for next year.

The College of Engineering offers engineering 102 in 14 high schools as part of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, initiative. The program will add six more schools for a total of 20 in the fall with a new, specialized program offered in two Yuma high schools.

The programs aim to introduce students to these subjects with the hope that they will choose to pursue the fields in college. The engineering 102 course is a prerequisite for engineering majors and provides students with three UA credits that are also transferable to ASU and NAU.

A partnership between the UA and Arizona Western College will introduce expanded STEAM Academies in Yuma this fall to high schools already teaching the engineering class. Students can take general education courses at Arizona Western College and specialized UA courses in subjects such as computer science, business and agriculture and plant sciences on their high school campuses.

“”We’re trying to push those students who are ahead,”” said Tanya Hodges, UA academic programs coordinator in Yuma.

Students qualify for the academy by taking the same math placement exam as UA students. More than 160 students are eligible so far, Hodges said.

The academy will help prepare students for fields that are in-demand in Yuma, Hodges said. She said the city is especially lacking people with degrees in finance, accounting, computer science, medicine and agriculture.

“”We have a very large number of jobs and a large number of openings,”” Hodges said. “”We have to import people. We want to grow our own.””

The UA engineering course was introduced to Arizona high schools to achieve similar goals, according to Meghan Albert-Powell, coordinator for engineering 102 in high schools. The program was piloted at Hamilton High School in Chandler in 2008.

“”One of the main questions that came about is that high schools have recruiters for athletics,”” Albert-Powell said. “”Why not recruit students who are stars in academics?””

Of the 78 students in the program last year, 36 came to the UA and 26 entered the College of Engineering, according to Albert-Powell.

“”They might not know a lot about math and engineering but might be interested in it,”” she said. “”It helps give them a more hands-on experience. It helps them make that decision earlier.””

The class includes the same content as the one offered on the UA campus but is a year long and is taught by high school teachers. Students pay about $375 for tuition and receive CatCards and access to university services, Albert-Powell said.

Mark Calhoun, who teaches the course at Sabino High School, contacted the College of Engineering about incorporating the class into his three-year engineering program. He said students learn about engineering first-hand in the class through completing Lego robotics and trebuchet projects.

“”The projects just get a little more complex,”” Calhoun said. “”(Students) really have a solid foundation in problem solving and what engineering is.””

Calhoun is in his second year of teaching the course and said 85 to 90 percent of students who complete it pursue engineering in college. The class also takes a trip to the UA College of Engineering every year.

“”I see a lot of (former students) in the departments when we do a tour the following year,”” Calhoun said.

Sabino High School junior Ashley Rix is a student in Calhoun’s class and said she may attend the UA after graduation.

Rix said she had a previous interest in engineering but did not know about the various types. She said class projects helped her choose optical engineering as a potential major.

“”I really didn’t know about it until Mr. Calhoun’s class,”” Rix said. “”It was actually after our research project that I first found out.””

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