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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Area high school students get hands-on with engineering at USI

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Sixty students from area high schools will come to the University of Southern Indiana on Friday to learn more about engineering and careers in the field. They will participate in hands-on workshops, see a keynote program by successful engineers, meet with engineers employed at local firms, and learn about summer internship opportunities.

The first annual Project Lead the Way Conference is hosted by USI’s Southwest Indiana STEM Resource Center. The conference is part of USI’s STEM initiative to create a science- and mathematics-literate workforce that provides a sustainable economic advantage to the region and community.

The National Science Foundation, Indiana STEM, and Southwest Indiana WIRED (Workforce Innovative Regional and Economic Development) help fund the Project Lead the Way program, which promotes STEM in the high schools by cultivating interest in STEM areas before students reach college.

Sixty sophomores, juniors, and seniors from Project Lead the Way schools in the nine-county WIRED region will participate in the conference. Participating high schools include Central High School, F.J. Reitz High School, Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center, Forest Park High School, Jasper High School, and Tell City High School.

Registration starts at 8 a.m. in Carter Hall in the University Center. Students will hear a keynote address from Matt Brockman and Ron Steinhart of Hafer Associates at 8:30 a.m. Hafer performed the mechanical and engineering design for the University’s Business and Engineering Center, currently under construction. After their presentation, the students will see the building under construction on their way to the Technology Center for hands-on workshops, including a VEX robotics programming workshop, energy competition workshop, and CAD solid modeling workshop. The workshops will be held from 9:30 to 11:45 a.m.

Students will be served lunch at noon and until 1:30 p.m., an employer showcase will be held in the University Center. Engineers from Mead Johnson, Vectren, SABIC, Babcock and Wilcox, Ivy Tech Community College, and USI will be on hand to talk to students. There also will be representatives from Engineer Our Future and Indiana INTERNnet talking to students about summer internships.

“Summer internships are one of the best answers to brain drain I’ve seen,” said Dave Ellert, instructor in engineering. “No matter where students go to college, the internship links them back to their hometown. Many students say they didn’t know these companies need engineers.”

Ellert said organizers are happy with the level of participation in the first Project Lead the Way Student Conference. Registration was limited to 10 students per school. “We hope when we get into the new building we’ll be able to double it, but this is a great start.”

Wendy Knipe Bredhold
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