Fairfield University's pre-engineering academy for high school students fueling a love of science


The High School Engineering Academy (HSEA), an innovative Saturday morning program at Fairfield University's School of Engineering, is working to create a pipeline of young science and engineering talent. It's an important mission considering that fewer American college students are choosing to study math, science, technology and engineering in comparison with the needs of the nation. For the United States to continue to be competitive within the global economy, according to E. Vagos Hadjimichael, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, it is vital that young people pursue careers in the sciences and engineering.

The HSEA program recently began its second year. It had gained overwhelming popularity among area high school students and their parents during the first year of its operation, in 2008-2009. This year, approximately 40 students from the five Catholic high schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport participate in HSEA. Members of the School of Engineering faculty teach in the Academy.

The curriculum is from the nationally recognized Project Lead the Way, a science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) curriculum. It aims to prepare high school students for higher education science and engineering studies. Organizers hope the pre-engineering curriculum will spark a love of these subjects among the participating students, especially among females and minority students, two segments of the population that are underrepresented in engineering.

Image: Vagos HadjimichaelDr. Hadjimichael said, "The students, as well as their parents, very much wanted to continue with this program. Our mission is to inspire this talented group of young people to pursue careers in engineering and science. In HSEA, the students are immersed in the culture of innovation, creativity and problem solving. It is hoped that they will remain in this path later on in their life, as college students and as professionals."

The current HSEA students attend Notre Dame High School in Fairfield, St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, Kolbe-Cathedral in Bridgeport, Immaculate High School in Danbury, and Trinity Catholic in Stamford.

On Saturdays, they begin classes at 10:00 a.m. They break at noon for lunch, and continue their activities until 2:30 p.m. They utilize facilities in Fairfield's manufacturing, electrical and computer engineering laboratories. The School of Engineering and the five high schools are contributing assets and money to fund HSEA this year, covering costs such as student transportation and meals

STEM is an example of the School of Engineering's continued efforts to do  outreach in K-12 schools, and in community colleges, to help inspire the next generation of much needed engineers and scientists.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 16, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 125