College "LEADs" Top High School Students to a Love of Engineering

This summer, 30 top high school students from around the country and Puerto Rico descended on Villanova’s campus for a three-week crash course in a variety of engineering disciplines as part of LEAD Engineering, a national program that raises high school students' awareness about engineering majors, offers research opportunities, and demonstrates engineering as integral to a successful society.

"We’re thrilled that LEAD Engineering selected the College as the regional partner that could bring its national program to life for these students," says Dr. Stephen Jones, Associate Dean, Student and Strategic Programs, who leads the program along with Dr. Frank Hampton, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The College served as one of only five hosts of the program, which also included the University of California-Berkley, the University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, and the University of Virginia.
Sustainability in engineering, the theme for this year's program, took center stage throughout the curriculum.

College faculty discussed the environmental outcomes associated with each major discipline of engineering and led group projects that encouraged participants to apply the lessons they learned. For example, students built rockets for test launching, remotely controlled robots, wind turbines, and concrete, which was tested for strength in the Structural Engineering Teaching and Research Laboratory.

LEAD presentation

In addition to engineering skills, LEAD students also learned presentation skills and tips for effective writing.

Between classes, participants worked in groups on one of five research projects, which included:

  • Exploring ways to reduce the use of air-conditioning, water, and electricity to cut costs
  • Working with turbines and wind power
  • Developing solar-powered flashlights
  • Building a green roof
  • Working with concrete to reduce rain runoff

Students presented their findings on the final day of the program.

"In addition to learning about the importance of sustainability in engineering, participants also experienced it through the lens of Villanova Engineering – which blends technical excellence with liberal arts, leadership development, and the belief that engineering can advance the greater good," says Dr. Jones.

For example, one course offered participants a glimpse into service-learning experiences at Villanova. To complement the lesson, LEAD participants hosted 20 students from Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia, mentoring them through a laboratory exercise about truss bridge construction.

In addition to classroom work, the faculty also planned a series of field trips, including visits to Google's New York offices and the Fairmount Waterworks, as well as guest speakers. Students also learned techniques for writing effective resumes and personal statements, which will be useful as participants make plans for college.

The College of Engineering will stay on as host of LEAD Engineering in 2011.

 

LEAD students had access to the pump room floor at the Fairmount Waterworks, where they participated in hands-on activities.
LEAD students had access to the pump room floor at the Fairmount Waterworks, where they participated in hands-on activities.
Participants applied lessons learned in class to hands-on activities, such as building truss bridges with Knex.
Participants applied lessons learned in class to hands-on activities, such as building truss bridges with Knex.