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Summer Bridge Program prepares incoming engineering students

Monday, September 5, 2005

The Baskin School of Engineering hosted 35 incoming engineering students last month for a weeklong program of activities designed to give them a head start in their first quarter at UCSC. All incoming transfer students, female students, and underrepresented minority students received invitations to participate in the Engineering Summer Bridge Program.

"It gives them a chance to meet other students and get to know the faculty before classes start," said Peggy Church, a counselor in the program and manager of the engineering school's undergraduate advising unit.

The content-rich program, with a daily schedule from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., resembles a mini-introduction to the quarter system, said program director Virginia Carrillo.

The Summer Bridge Program included assessments of students' strengths in math and other areas, workshops, advice from students and faculty, and team projects. The team projects involved developing a concept for a product using flashing LED lights, designing a circuit, and building a simple prototype. Concepts ranged from an emergency lighting system to a frisbee with flashing lights for nighttime games.

Because the first year of engineering programs focuses so heavily on fundamental areas of math and science, some students may get discouraged and lose interest, Church said.

"There is a retention problem in engineering between the freshman and sophomore years," she said. "We hope the Summer Bridge Program will encourage students to stick with the math and science so that they can get to the more creative classes and lab opportunities in the upper level of the engineering curriculum."

Participants got practical advice on how to succeed academically and an introduction to the various resources available to support them. When the going gets tough, the students will know where to turn for help, Church said.

"We're the only UC campus to offer a program like this, but it's worth the effort if we can encourage more students to stay in engineering," she said.

The Engineering Summer Bridge Program is supported by the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) and Developing Effective Engineering Pathways (DEEP) programs, both funded by the National Science Foundation.