Skip to main content

E is for Enspire, Engineering and Engagement

Photo of middle school students
The Enspire design competition transformed local eighth graders into Jacobs School students for a day.

Who made the giant E on the cover of this issue of Pulse? Four hundred eighth graders — and a swarm of Jacobs School students who volunteered to spend a day giving San Diego youth a taste of life as an engineering undergraduate at the Jacobs School. This is Enspire, one of the highlights of Engineers Week 2010 at UCSD.

“We show them what labs we use, what buildings we use…we get them motivated to pursue a future in the sciences and engineering,” said Joshua Munoz, a fourth year mechanical engineering major who mentored and corralled eighth graders from Pershing Middle School.

After a morning of exploring labs, touring campus and playing with robots, dry ice and more, the students from Pershing Middle School and Muirlands Middle School reassembled for a design competition in UCSD’s Price Center.

Teams mentored by undergraduate volunteers built tall but stable towers from pipe cleaners, straws, tape, paper clips, aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, and a ping pong ball. With her group, Amanda Hanson, a third year bioengineering/bioinformatics major, talked up the many opportunities for Jacobs School undergraduates to work on real-world problems.

“I had a couple kids who were asking me a lot about how to get into these programs, what they should do to get there, the process. One girl wanted to do earthquake engineering, and I told her about the shake tables. She was really, really excited about that.”

Photo of Enspire volunteer
Jacobs School Enspire volunteer

Pershing Middle School science teacher Kellie Marcarelli, a three year veteran of Enspire, noted that eighth graders are only three years away from applying — or not applying — to college.

This fact was not lost on Hanson, the bioengineering major. “When you expose younger kids to college and engineering, they definitely start to see what they can do with their lives and how they can get to where they want to be. At a younger age, you have every door open to you but as you get older, if you don’t make the right decisions, those doors start to close.”

In fact, Jacobs School undergraduates reach out to San Diegans before they get to the eighth grade. Students from the UCSD chapter of the Society of Civil and Structural Engineers expose local sixth graders to earthquake engineering throughout the year.

The Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC), which puts on Enspire, also runs Engineering Explorations, an annual event that introduces San Diego high school students to engineering, science and college life via a day at the Jacobs School.

Girls’ Day Out, an engineering outreach event geared to girls in middle school, is also run by TESC students. April 24 is the next TESC-organized Girls’ Day Out.

As Enspire 2010 came to a close, four participants from Pershing Middle School talked about the day — eagerly finishing friends’ sentences. When asked if they want to go to college, one responded, “Yeah. I want to go to college because it seems like they do a lot of thinking and understanding stuff.” Her classmate jumped in. “AND you get a better job!”

Origins of Enspire
February 17, 2010 marked Enspire's third year. This student-run event grew out of conversations at an outreach meeting at SPAWAR in Point Loma in November 2007 between Jacobs School undergraduate leaders from the Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC), Jacobs School alumnus Jim Rohr (Ph.D. MAE '85) from SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, and San Diego teachers. Enspire sponsors and supporters over the last three years include: BAE Systems, Cisco Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, SPAWAR, Swinerton, ViaSat, and various units within UCSD including UCSD SPACES.

Print Article 

Related Links

Website: TESC »

Website: Engineers Week »