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The Making of an Engineer

The Making of an Engineer program at the University of Denver in Colorado encourages capable high school students to elect an engineering career by immersing them in a graded 3-week, 4-quarter hour, college-level summer course. The program targets mostly at-risk participants, drawn nationally, giving emphasis to recruiting underrepresented groups in engineering, namely women, African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Eskimos, and students of all backgrounds from rural schools.

It is designed to introduce high school students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to the engineering profession. It has been offered successfully for 15 years to 794 students through donations/grants from government agencies, more than 30 corporations, and the University of Denver. Our goal is to seek out bright students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents entering grades 10 to 12 from groups underrepresented in engineering from across the United States, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa. We also targeted students from rural areas of the Rocky Mountain region (CO, UT, NM, AZ, ID, WY, and MT) who would not have easy access to learn about engineering.

As an example of the diversity of this program, the geographic distribution of 66 students who participated in the class of 2001 was as follows: 1 from each of the following states: AK, AZ, CT, ID, MN, MT, NC, NV, OR, TX, and UT; 2 from NM, 4 from MI, 5 from TN, 12 from Puerto Rico, 13 from CA, and 19 from CO. There were 31 males (47%) and 35 females (53%) in the program. Forty-two students belonged to minorities (64%). Specifically, six were African-American (9%), four were Native-American (6%), five were Asian-American (8%), and 27 were Hispanic (41%). There were 27 ascending seniors (41%), 32 ascending juniors (48%), and 7 ascending sophomores (11%) in the program. Over the life of the program, the average percentage of minorities has been 62% and women 45%.

An important aspect of our recruitment objective is that we target students with grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.6 out of 4.0--that is, students who are often overlooked by many high-achievement programs. These students are the ones, we believe, that can most benefit by this program. High achievers generally are highly recruited and have opportunities offered to them. Students in the "second tier" have the ability to succeed but are not often recognized for their potential, especially among the targeted groups. By competing and succeeding in a truly challenging course at a real university, students who have no other connection with higher education--because they often are the first in their families to complete high school, let alone consider college--receive an emotional boost and a realization that college is possible for them. It has been our documented experience that these students are profoundly affected by the challenge and attention offered by this program.

We have come to expect that the participants will have a very positive experience during the course. They make friends, learn a great deal, and become very motivated to succeed. Upon return to their schools, most will take additional math and science courses. More than 90% of the attendees will apply to a university or a community or junior college. Almost 90% will attend college and about 75% will pursue a technical career. Just about all of the participants are high-potential students but many are at risk because of their backgrounds, economic condition, or environment. Most need to achieve a significant success in order to affect their outlook on life. This program is quite challenging and many at first have doubts--but invariably with the available tutoring and the encouragement of the faculty, counselors and staff, their team members, and their own hard work, they persevere. This accomplishment is often sufficient for the participants to see themselves in a better light and assume a more positive role in preparing themselves for college.

The total cost of the program for 2002 is expected to exceed $165,000 for 68 students. If cost sharing by the university is ignored, it takes about $1700 per student to attend our program--mostly room and board fees. The average value to the student exceeds $4000 when tuition and travel costs are factored in. Note that every student is asked to pay something for the course--even the most needy--in order to help stretch available dollars and make every student have some financial commitment to the program. On average, students contribute about $150 toward their own attendance with the remainder covered by scholarships.

The Making of an Engineer program has been recognized through an award given by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. On 12 December 2001, the department of engineering at Denver received one of 10 presidential organizational awards for mentoring.

Brochures and applications for the 2002 offering will be available after 15 February 2002 from:

The Department of Engineering

Ms. Susie Montoya, Coordinator

University of Denver

University Park

Denver, CO 80208-0002

Contact Information. For additional information about this program, contact Professor Albert J. Rosa at