Hartford Teens Strive Toward Engineering Knowledge at WPI

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Among the 71 students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Frontiers/Strive Summer Program are three dedicated high-school juniors from Hartford, Conn.

On July 10 they started a two-week program, studying with WPI faculty and exploring various areas of science, mathematics and engineering. Program participants hail from all parts of the country and abroad.

"The Frontiers/Strive program is a great way for students to get to know our campus, and many of them will apply for admission for fall 2000," said WPI's Director of Minority Affairs/Outreach Programs Dawn Johnson. "The Strive portion of the program is our effort to reach out to underrepresented minority students to encourage an interest in the science and engineering fields."

Strive participant Madeline Sola, 16, of Hartford, Conn., is studying electrical and computer engineering at WPI.

"I picked that course because I had a previous interest in electronics and wanted to learn more about it," Sola said. "I am also on the FIRST Robotics Team at my Hartford Public High School, and, as a result, gained an interest in pursuing a career in engineering."Sola was attracted to the program for future purposes, too. "I chose to come to WPI because I heard that it was a great school," she said.

Over the course of the two-week program, much is expected of these students. But Sola said the experience has been instructive and beneficial.

"I like the way our instructor not only teaches the material, but also shows us the way things work by having hands-on labs," she said. "I feel that I will benefit from this program by gaining an introduction to the knowledge I will need to study electrical engineering in college. Also, by giving me a taste of it, I can find out if I really want to pursue this as a career, or if I am more interested in a different field."

Another Hartford student, 16-year-old Nery Cruz, is studying mechanical engineering at WPI.

"I love to get my hands on projects and like to solve problems," Cruz explained, "especially ones that require math and science. I am interested in mechanical engineering as a major in college and as a career in the future. This program allows students to have a real-life college experience to help them prepare them for the time when they are in college."

The chance to explore his options appealed to him.

"It gives us some insight into our possible majors and allows us the opportunity to see if the major we chose is really what we want to do the rest of our lives," he said. "I think I will take away a lot of knowledge about college life and what mechanical engineering is about."

A third Hartford student, Rosaura Ayala, 16, of Bulkeley High School, is studying civil engineering through the Strive program.

"I like building things, and I wanted to do something that would help the society," Ayala said. "Before coming to WPI, I didn't know that civil engineering was so broad. There are a lot of fields within civil engineering." She has grown more interested in the field as the result of her experience in the Strive program.

"When you come here, you learn so much more than they teach you in high school," she said. "And, being on a college campus for two weeks shows you how to survive on your own. It's the whole college experience, and it's just perfect here."

The Strive program began nine years ago through a generous grant from the United Technologies Corp. (UTC), in response to the lack of African-American, Hispanic and American Indian students pursuing the fields of science and engineering. With the support of UTC, students from Connecticut can attend the Strive program at no cost.

At WPI, these teens attend classes and work in laboratories studying biology, chemistry, civil engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering and physics.

Each student learns from WPI professors while working with classmates on projects. They make use of WPI's state-of-the-art experimental, analytical and computer technology. Current WPI students assist them in the labs and in study groups.

The program offerings span the wealth of study available at this major New England technological university. For example, Frontiers/Strive students of biology and biotechnology will cut and splice DNA and transfer it into bacteria to engineer new microorganisms; those studying chemistry will synthesize colorful compounds and learn about molecular modeling.

In addition to their major area of study, students participate in workshops in speech, creative writing, music, theater and college application essay writing. The residential experience allows them to find out about life in one of WPI's coeducational residence halls.

WPI, an independent technological university founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based educational plan. Under the WPI Plan, students are provided with unique opportunities for integrating classroom studies with research projects conducted on campus or at off-site locations.