Preparing kids for college

Posted on 04. Oct, 2011 by in Annual Report, Features, Issues, Students

The Engineering Summer Program

When a group of high school students gets together to decide the best way to text while riding a bicycle, the expected result would probably involve mangled spokes and a broken limb or two.

But during the UW-Madison Engineering Summer Program (ESP), high school juniors and seniors approach such problems as real-world engineering challenges in which they apply college-level coursework in physics, chemistry, calculus and technical communications. “Our project focused on making communication a lot easier to do during everyday use of your bike. That way, you wouldn’t miss an important call or important issues,” says Geraldo Herrera, a high school senior from Tucson, Arizona.

The project was one of five created during ESP participants’ Introduction to Engineering class. The students’ display would magnify texts to make them visible to commuters without
drawing too much of their attention from the road ahead.

Held six weeks each summer, ESP is the longest-running pre-college outreach program at UW-Madison, about to enter its 40th year. It targets minorities, women and first-generation college students—people who traditionally are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math. The academic core of ESP—college-level instruction in science, math and technical communications—gives students a realistic expectation of what to expect in a demanding college environment, while guest speakers from industry and tours of companies such as Rockwell Automation and Abbott Laboratories enable them to learn about jobs in scientific fields.

Students come to ESP from all over the country. Nearly all ESP alumni ultimately attend college at institutions ranging from UW-Madison to MIT and Stanford. Eighty percent of ESP alumni apply to UW-Madison as undergraduates—and 90 percent of those students enroll in the College of Engineering.

Sourinthone Bounket’s experience in ESP in summer 2011 typifies the program’s success in attracting engineering students. “I’ve been really undecided on what kind of engineering I wanted to do, and I was hoping that ESP would help me decide,” says the Milwaukee Rufus King High School senior. “Now I want to do chemical engineering.”

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