The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Engineering is one of many universities nationwide with efforts to expand its reach to underrepresented students. To that end, Engineering at Illinois is partnering with Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering (Chi S&E), with the objective of preparing inner-city students for college science and engineering programs.

“There have been significant efforts for a long time to improve diversity in engineering with little success in attracting underrepresented student populations,” explained Kevin Pitts, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in the College of Engineering. “There have been a number of studies that have shown that so-called leaky pipeline begins very early on with students being steered away from technology at around middle school age. We have been contemplating how to help with the pipeline for some time now and are trying to do so with this partnership.”

Last year the University of Illinois math department partnered with Chi S&E for 5th and 6th grade curricula on geometry and probability. This year, Engineering at Illinois, in collaboration with the university’s College of Education, will pilot a 7th grade program that will focus on a pre-algebra and physics curriculum.   

Since October 24, 40 Chicago Public School (CPS) 7th graders have participated in a four-week program, three of which are in Chicago and the fourth on the University of Illinois campus.  Prior to that, CPS teachers attended a workshop at the U of I to become familiar with new instructional methods and collaborative learning techniques.

“All the research now says that kids should be spending more time in interactive projects and less time reading books and doing rote memorization,” said Sahid Rosado Lausell, Outreach Coordinator for the College.  “Helping these teachers by showing them the kind of projects they can do with kids will have a multiplier effect in the longer term.”

Illinois students from organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) will join Illinois faculty and CPS teachers in the classroom to work with the seventh graders and provide real-life role models for these aspiring engineers. 

The plan is to continue the program for seventh graders over six Saturdays in the spring. Those sessions will include additional Illinois physics faculty and incorporate practicing engineers from industry as well as a visit to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The program plans to add a grade each year, which will continue to focus on mathematics preparation in addition to a new engineering topic. The ultimate goal is for a K-12 program, which will enroll approximately 120 students per grade, for a total of 1500 students in all grades.  

“The most important part of it is math,” Rosado Lausell said. “A student can come here and succeed in engineering without ever having had any high school level engineering courses; however, they can’t succeed if they don’t have a strong math background. That is why math is the undercurrent of this whole program and why we are partnering with the College of Education to provide that training.”

(Excerpt from article written by Mike Koon, UIUC College of Engineering Communications Office – READ FULL ARTICLE)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *