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SHPE Shows High School Students Path to Engineering

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SHPE Shows High School Students Path to Engineering

March 18, 2013
Persevere. That was the overarching message for southern Arizona high school students attending the UA’s seventh annual Advancement of Latinos in Engineering Day and Young Latina Forum on Feb. 28, 2013

"It doesn't matter where you came from. Never let anyone talk you down,” said Jessica Reynoso, vice president of the University’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, which sponsored the event along with IBM and Raytheon.

Potential engineering undergraduates from Tucson high schools learned the value of teamwork at the Advancement of Latinos in Engineering Day and Young Latina Forum organized by the UA chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

In workshops guided by volunteers from IBM and Raytheon, more than 200 math and science students, randomly assigned to small groups, learned basic engineering principles and the importance of teamwork. They built rockets, catapults and gas masks from common household items – Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, straws, cotton balls, sponges and masking tape. They tried, they failed, they persevered, and they succeeded.

And they explored the path to becoming an engineer, through the eyes of others.

Carissa Hernandez is a native Tucsonan and former SHPE president who earned a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Arizona while raising her son. She is now section head in the electronics center at Raytheon, and runs marathons.

"Nothing can take the place of persistence," she said.

James Valenzuela is from a family of migrant workers and attended the same SHPE and College of Engineering event while he was a Pueblo High School student. He chose the UA and engineering as his path out of poverty.

"I had two parents, but they couldn't help me," said the Raytheon quality systems manager. “Accept the fact you are going to be knocked down. Get up. That's what's going to make you great.”

Beverly Valdez is a quality engineer at John Deere in Moline, Iowa, even though her grandmother in Mexico still thinks she works under vehicles. The recent mechanical engineering graduate said she learned quickly to get out of her “cultural comfort zone.”

“It’s OK to be uncomfortable,” she told students, “you’re building your character.”

At the end of the day, the students – for example, Desert View High School sophomore Michael Delgado, who has been disassembling electrical devices since he was a toddler – could relate. He plans to study electrical engineering in college.