Summer engineering program ends with a blast

Writer: Linda Fresques

Nearly 170 students in grades 6-11 ended six weeks of hard work with a blast—from rockets that they designed and built themselves from soda bottles and paper.

The rockets are powered by air and water and some of them have a trajectory as high as 100 meters. The launch took place on the New Mexico State University Horseshoe on July 16 as the culmination of the Pre-Freshmen Engineering Program (PREP).

In addition to studying the physics related to rocketry and motion, the students spent six weeks studying logic, algebraic structures, technical writing, engineering, computer science, and physics. The program is designed to expose high achieving pre-college students from Doña Ana County schools to careers in science, engineering and mathematics through classroom instruction, guest lectures, hands-on experiments and field trips.

“The goal of the program is to direct student interest toward math, science and engineering, and keep it there,” said Karen Mikel, Project Manager.

The College of Engineering at New Mexico State University has been administering the PREP program since 1997 and more than 90 percent of students who have participated in PREP since the program’s inception have gone on to pursue higher education. Students may begin PREP as early as sixth grade and attend for four years prior to high school graduation and college entrance. The students earn up to three high school credits and six college credits.

Although PREP is open to everyone, the program focus is on female and minority populations traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields.

“In addition to fostering interest in Engineering at New Mexico State University, if this program encourages young people to take more math and science in school, we will have succeeded, regardless of their major,” said College of Engineering Associate Dean Krist Peterson.

New this year is PREP 4, through which students who have completed three years of PREP, maintained at least an 85 percent average in their academic courses and who have not graduated from high school may earn up to six credit hours of college credit through Doña Ana Community College. They will earn three credits in math and three credits for introductory engineering, a new course that in fall 2010 will be required for all entering engineering freshmen.

“It’s a wonderful start for students who will be returning to NMSU when they graduate,” said Mikel. “We have 19 students in PREP 4 who will likely come here to study engineering. I’ve had several students who had already planned to study something else but are now focused on engineering.”

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