Second annual MESA camp introduces first-generation college students to engineering

Second annual MESA camp introduces first-generation college students to engineering

The College of Engineering's second annual MESA First Generation Summer Engineering Camp welcomed 18 middle and high school students to campus the week of June 16th. In addition to a demonstrated interest in science and technology, all of the students attending the camp shared one common goal: they all hope to go on to be the first person in their family to attend college.

The 18 participants were selected from a pool of 40 applicants based on essays about their interests in  math, science and technology. Campers had plenty of opportunities to learn more about STEM subjects, but the camp also provided an introduction to college. Thomas Kirsch, whose son Rocco attended the camp this year, said the camp helped connect his love of science with college education possibilities for his son.

"We have always spoken of physics, chemistry and mathematics, and I have made a conscious effort to bring the beauty and wonder that these subjects hold for me to his focus that he may see what I find so enamoring," said Kirsch. "But this camp and the terrific group that operate it left him enthralled with the engineering colleges and the university as a whole. If my son's experience and the joy that it has brought to him and me are indicative of the other kids and parents, then you have succeeded tremendously."

Some of the highlights of the camp were a behind-the-scenes tour of the Reno/ Tahoe International Airport, building canoes out of concrete and floating them in the Orr Ditch, a hands-on electrical engineering lesson where students built an Intercom Circuit, and constructing and testing bottle rockets in Manzanita Bowl.

The camp wrapped up with a mentoring luncheon where students had the opportunity to speak to representatives from university outreach programs such as Upward Bound, TRiO, Dean's Future Scholars, The Center for Cultural Diversity and Gear Up. Students and staff members from the College of Engineering were also in attendance to speak to students about engineering and the importance of a college education.

"The different field trips that we took at UNR helped me figure out on what I am interested in when I go to college," said Arsh Bhardwaj, a 14-year-old student at Sparks Middle School. "I also loved the luncheon that we had on Friday. It answered a lot of questions that I had about college. "

MESA, or Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, is a nationwide college-preparation program that strives to increase college enrollment among minority, low-income and first-generation college students. The cost of MESA First Generation Camp was covered by the College of Engineering. Applicants from Yerington's Gear Up program and Sparks Middle School's AVID program attended the camp.

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