News Release

UC San Diego breaks income boundaries in engineering

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San Diego, Calif., Oct 7, 2016 – “This is just the beginning of what technology like this can do,” said Gabriel Davalos, an incoming aerospace engineering major. Davalos was referring to a miniature table lamp he and some of his peers built that turned on when something nearby made a loud noise. The students also fabricated a tiny house to protect the lamp using 3D printed materials and rapid prototyping tools.

The project was part of a new, math-focused class offered for the first time this summer called Intro to Engineering (ENG 10). Every student in the class was participating in a new five-week academic, summer residential program at the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The program is the Freshmen Summer Engineering Institute at the Jacobs School of Engineering’s IDEA Student Center. The IDEA Student Center created this program to replace the five-day program for incoming engineering students called Summer PrEP. The students in the program are primarily from fourth and fifth quintile high schools.

“Our vision of success goes beyond simply graduating students,” said Olivia Graeve, the faculty director of the IDEA Student Center and one of the driving forces behind the Institute. “We also aim for academic achievement; full participation in all programs and learning experiences the college has to offer; and assurance that graduates are well positioned for launching a professional career or pursuing an advanced degree.”

To achieve that vision, Graeve and her team at the IDEA Student Center have implemented a school-wide master plan for student success. The Institute is just one of the programs in the Student Success Initiative, which is aimed at increasing retention and diversity in engineering through academic support, community building and leadership opportunities.

Over the course of the five weeks, the students completed two courses: ENG10 and a hands-on introductory class in their major. The students also attended academic and technical workshops, participated in advising and counseling sessions, met with peer learning mentors and study groups and received information about  a variety of campus resources.

The students also participated in professional development activities including workshops by Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Qualcomm on topics ranging from resumes and internships to diversity in the workplace.

Getting a Jump on Classes

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All students in the program took a new class, Intro to Engineering (ENG 10) as well as an introductory class in their major that they would normally take during their first or second quarter.

“The students in the program had an advantage because class sizes were significantly smaller, even though the class was condensed into five weeks,” said Michelle Ferrez, IDEA Student Center Director.

Intro to Engineering is designed to introduce students to engineering mathematics through an application-oriented and hands-on approach.

“The students used the Python and Arduino coding languages – which many were seeing for the first time – to solve real-world engineering problems related to design, manufacturing and prototyping, electronics and data analysis,” said David Larson, a doctoral candidate who taught the course.

For the final project, students created gadgets that reacted to external stimuli – sound, light, movement or muscle contractions.

One team fabricated a miniature house and table lamp with an LED that lit up when something nearby made a loud noise.

Another group twisted wires together into the shape of a tree with green, yellow and red LEDs for leaves. The colored lights lit up according to noise level.

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“We called it the Library Tree,” said Sergil Johnson, an incoming environmental engineering major. “It’s designed to sit on a desk in the library and indicate when the students are talking too loudly.”

Closing Ceremony

During the Program’s closing ceremony on September 2, Albert P. Pisano, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering congratulated and encouraged the participants.

“You are an advantaged group that has created a set of connections,” said Pisano. “I want you all to leverage and enhance those connections over the next four years. In addition to creating connections, you also learned how to define a project, make it work, debug it, and how not to hit it when it’s not working right. Make a conscious effort to use the new skills you’ve picked up in the next few months.”

The keynote speaker was Jose Delgado (BS, Structural Engineering, ’95), a CalTrans bridge engineer.

“You’ve made it to the beginning,” said Delgado. “Graduating from UC San Diego will be one of the hardest things you do, but it will be one of the most rewarding.”

Delgado encouraged the students to get involved in some of the programs offered by the IDEA Student Center, such as study groups and tutoring.

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla also spoke to the students at the closing ceremony.

“A year from now, you’ll see that these 5 weeks were some of the most influential in your life. The fact that you were admitted to UC San Diego speaks highly of your accomplishments. The fact that you accepted admission speaks of your intellect. The fact that you accepted admission to this program speaks of your pragmatic attitude towards education. Being a college student is a about a state of mind, and you’ve been able to build that here.”

Media Contacts

Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation