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Posted June 27, 2016

Robots the Focus of CSUEB Engineering Camp

Students from low-income communities are introduced to engineering concepts

Students learned the basics of bridge and robot construction at the camp, which was designed for students from low-income communities.
KIMBERLY TERE HAWKINS

It’s summer break at Cal State East Bay, but pockets of campus are buzzing with activity. In one classroom, almost 70 young engineers-in-training erupt in a wave of cheers and clapping as a robotic car follows a track up and over a balsa wood bridge.

The high school students are part of a program called Project Lead the Way, sponsored by Chevron. Students have been learning the fundamentals of engineering from CSUEB staff and graduate students, including the basics of bridge and robot construction. They then put those skills to work in teams, testing the functionality and strength of each other’s creations.

The weeklong camp is designed to introduce students from low-income communities to not just engineering concepts, but also the idea of going to college.

“This gives them a college experience while still in high school,” said Farzad Shahbodaghlou, director of the construction management program at CSUEB. “It’s similar coursework, they stay in the dorms … for some of them, this is their first time away from home or on a college campus.”

Shahbodaghlou said this year, the program grew by 23 percent, and includes students in 9th through 11th grade. He added that it’s not only a great way to introduce CSUEB to prospective Pioneers, but also gives them a chance to see what it means to “be an engineer.”

“More than half of them will be the first in their family to attend college and most of them don’t have a role model engineer in their family ... they may not even know what engineering is,” he said.

Richmond High School student Jovany Vallejo, 16, has always known he wanted to go to college, something his parents didn’t have the opportunity to do. He said he saw the CSUEB camp as a way to expand on his high school experience and that it’s great to work alongside like-minded peers.

“Everyone else here is shooting for high goals, I’m not the only one,” he said.

That camaraderie excited Pinole Valley High School rising senior Rebecca Bui as well. Bui said she takes engineering classes during the school year, but she’s one of only three female students in her classes. At the CSUEB camp, that isn’t the case.

“The best part for me was probably realizing that their are other girls here who are interested in engineering too,” she said. 

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