San Diego, Calif., May 13, 2015 -- As a ninth grader, Diana has dreamt of being many different things, but an engineer has never been one of them.
“I guess it just isn’t something you think could really happen for a lot of people. Those kinds of jobs feel so far away,” she said.
She was among 150 students who attended the Empower High School Conference on Saturday, April 25—an event that hopes to make STEM jobs a more realistic career goal for students.
By the end of the event, she was enthusiastic: “My favorite part of the day was touring the labs. Seeing all the resources here is definitely inspiring. It makes you feel like you could something really cool,” said Diana.
Open to students in grades eight through 12, the all-day event showed young learners the many possibilities for studying STEM. The event was hosted by SHPE, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Jacobs School’s IDEA Student Center.
“When I was growing up, I was fortunate to attend a lot of different workshops and conferences that inspired me to pursue a degree in the STEM field,” said Itzel Gomez, an outreach committee member for the organization she said. “So I understand the impact that events like Empower can have on a student.”
“SHPE puts on the Empower High School Conference to show students who are first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented that a future in both higher education and engineering is possible. We aim to show them that members of the SHPE UCSD chapter are students who share similar backgrounds with them,” she said.
Attendees heard from keynote speaker Olivia Graeve, an associate professor in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, about her experience as a first-generation student who overcame adversity to reach great success. Her inspirational story resonated with the audience, many of whom are also first-generation students.
Following the speech, students got the opportunity to tour various labs for bioengineering, nanoengineering, electrical engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering. They could also attend workshops about computer science, electrical, mechanical and aerospace engineering. Participants could build and launch a bottle rocket, learn the basics of Java, use magnets to understand the concepts of electromagnetism or build a mini solar-powered robot.
Hand-on activities, provided by SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command), gave the attendees real experience dealing various concepts like density, air resistance, and materials science. The students also received a tour of UC San Diego’s campus, and sat in on a panel of undergraduates who answered questions about studying STEM and college life.