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IBM engineer Wanda Ronquillo, right, and Raytheon engineer James Valenzuela at the 2011 Advancement of Latinos in Engineering and the Young Latina Forum. IBM and Raytheon are longtime supporters of SHPE.

Hispanic Engineers Promote Further Education to High School Students

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Hispanic Engineers Promote Further Education to High School Students

Feb. 1, 2012
Day of motivation and inspiration aims to emphasize the importance of higher education and future involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Student members of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or SHPE, will spend the day Feb. 3 promoting to more than 200 middle and high school students the advantages of staying in school and pursuing engineering as an education and a career.

The organizers of the event, which combines two SHPE programs -- Advancement of Latinos in Engineering and the Young Latina Forum -- describe it as a day of motivation and inspiration that aims to emphasize the importance of higher education and future involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"We want to promote the importance of staying in school, especially to Latinos and Latinas," said Johana Guzman, the SHPE member responsible for organizing the Young Latina Forum component of the event. "But not exclusively," she added. "All are welcome and our overall goal is to get kids to go to college and pursue engineering as a career."

The event, which is sponsored by IBM and Raytheon Missile Systems, begins at 8 a.m. in the student union ballroom with registration and welcome by Wanda Ronquillo, an engineering project manager at IBM, and by engineering students Ricardo Trevino, who organized the ALE Day component of the program, and YLF organizer Johana Guzman.

UA College of Engineering Dean Jeff Goldberg will also welcome the high school students, and Larry Head, systems and industrial engineering department head, will outline the engineering competitions that await the students. The keynote speech will then be given by Raytheon engineer James Valenzuela.

The various competitions are designed to develop teamwork and problem-solving skills while teaching a few basic engineering principles. Students will break out into parallel workshops that include building spaghetti towers, which will be judged on their height and load-bearing capabilities. In another workshop, chemical engineering will play a major role in the design of a body scrub. Other workshops involve designing a mechanical claw and building a paper airplane.

Finally, the student groups will all join together for the main engineering challenge of the day -- designing an autonomous vehicle. This is primarily an exercise in planning and cooperation: student teams will be required to assign subtasks to each of the 13 engineering majors, and give a presentation to the judges on how each major contributes to the overall design of the autonomous vehicle.

"These workshops are fun, creative, team-building activities that are geared towards inspiring students to think actively and positively toward their future goals," said Guzman. "Through this outreach program, SHPE hopes to bring more STEM students into the University of Arizona as well as increase diversity in major industries."

Plenty of practical advice and information will also be on offer, such as how to apply to college and the benefits of pursuing a college degree. "Although these high school students may be faced with adversities, whether race, gender or otherwise," Guzman said, "this event inspires them to not only overcome their obstacles but to strive to become the best that they can be."