More Than an Experience
- BY Adelina Elo
- PHOTOGRAPHY BY Garvin Tso
- June 21, 2021
Cal State East Bay President Cathy Sandeen, center, with Discover Engineering! cofounders Farzad Shahbodaghlou and Cristian Gaedicke prepare materials for virtual camp.
When asked why she was participating in Cal State East Bay’s Discover Engineering! camp, Katherine Santana, a junior at Richmond High School said confidently, “I know it will be a good experience and will open up options.”
And, opening up options – in various ways – has been at the heart of the program since its inception seven years ago when Cal State East Bay professors Farzad Shahbodaghlou and Cristian Gaedicke co-founded the camp in partnership with Bay Area LEEDS.
LEARNING TO PIVOT
Similar to 2020, this year’s Discover Engineering! camp will be held virtually. Students will gain a real-life opportunity to be flexible and step up to the challenge by working in virtual teams instead of in-person.
Throughout the week of June 21-25, they will build and program Mars rover-type robots with a mission to search, collect and load minerals onto a shuttle for the production of batteries. Each section will be filmed, stitched together and uploaded on YouTube to be judged at the end of the week by a panel of industry professionals, including many from Chevron, the program sponsor.
Many students in the program come from underserved communities. Even in a virtual environment, the camp provides them exposure to post-secondary education and the engineering industry.
“For some of the participants, college doesn’t seem like a possibility because they don’t know where to go or what to do," Shahbodaghlou said. "This program gives them a pathway.”
INCREASING INDUSTRY KNOWLEDGE
One of the ways that students can learn more about engineering is through field trips. This year, camp participants will do a virtual field trip to Maxon, a manufacturer and supplier of high-precision drive systems.
The thought behind the field trip is to expose the students to different types of engineering careers available.
EXPANDING GENDER REPRESENTATION
This year’s camp will include about 65 students, 50 percent of which are female. This number is above the national rate of 10-15 percent of women in engineering.
CREATING SOCIAL MOBILITY
“The essence of the program is to help [middle and] high school students within the local community get an immersive experience [and] support them in their journey, and inspire future leaders,” said Lily Rahnema, community engagement manager of the Chevron Richmond Refinery.
In a small, informal survey conducted in 2020, this social investment proved to have an impact. Nearly 42 percent of the past camp participants – who filled out the survey and were enrolled in a higher education institution – indicated that they chose to study engineering, with many of them going to local community colleges and four-year universities, including at least four Discover Engineering! alumni who have joined Cal State East Bay.