High schoolers get to 'SEE' engineering's bigger picture at ASU

September 13, 2021

Engineering has a lot to offer young people exploring their career possibilities. And young people who come from a variety of backgrounds have a lot to offer the field of engineering.

For high school juniors and seniors, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University offers a weeklong immersive experience called SEE@ASU to explore the 25 fields of engineering the Fulton Schools offers as undergraduate majors. (SEE stands for "summer engineering experience.") An illustrated globe with depictions of engineering disciplines superimposed on a desert sunset photo. High school juniors and seniors from a variety of backgrounds, including students from migrant communities, learned about 25 disciplines of engineering and the college experience during SEE@ASU, a weeklong summer camp hosted by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Graphic by Rhonda Hitchcock-Mast/ASU Download Full Image

“It’s an important camp because it empowers students,” said Nina Loughman, coordinator of undergraduate recruitment and K–12 engineering outreach. “High school students choose engineering for many reasons. They may be drawn to it because of their parents’ jobs, because they’re good at math or science, or other reasons. This camp provides substance to make an informed decision by narrowing down their interests in engineering.”

Typically conducted on ASU’s Tempe campus — giving high schoolers the opportunity to experience college life and live in a residence hall — SEE@ASU has shifted to an online program for the past two summers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adapting to a virtual environment, however, has also opened up new opportunities to expand the program’s reach to students who might not otherwise be able to come to campus.

This past summer, the Fulton Schools ran three SEE@ASU camps. Two of those camps brought 54 local high school juniors and seniors to ASU virtually to explore engineering. A new third camp, specifically designed for migrant students, was created in partnership with the ASU Migratory Student Summer Academy program and led by Seline Szkupinski Quiroga, program director in the School of Transborder Studies, an interdisciplinary school within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Bringing ASU engineering to the borderlands

Agriculture is a more than $10 billion industry in Arizona. Migrant farmworkers and their families — including more than 10,000 children in Arizona, the nation’s seventh largest population of migrant students — are drawn to rural agriculture areas along the border and throughout the Southwest for work.

The Arizona Department of Education funds programs to help K–12 migrant students throughout the school year, but the department’s leaders also noticed a gap in summer opportunities for this group, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

For years, Szkupinski Quiroga has worked with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education through the grant-funded College Assistance Migrant Program for first-year college students. She now also works with the Arizona Department of Education to support K–12 migrant students. Through the new ASU Migratory Student Summer Academy, Szkupinski Quiroga is connecting middle and high school students to the diverse array of educational summer opportunities at ASU.

“We wanted (a summer program) that was designed specifically for migrant students,” Szkupinski Quiroga said. “Their migratory background can be a source of strength and resilience, creativity and innovation. It’s something they can bring into the classroom and (to) this new summer experience.”

Szkupinski Quiroga set out to find STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) opportunities at ASU that fit this need. She began by pursuing a collaboration with Fulton Schools Associate Professor Shawn Jordan, who had already organized outreach programs making engineering culturally relevant to Navajo students through STEAM-related storytelling. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Szkupinski Quiroga to shift from planning an in-person program with Jordan to exploring a different, virtual path with another Fulton Schools program.

“I had never done anything virtual so I looked around to see who at ASU had experience with virtual summer programs and I learned about SEE@ASU,” she said.

Through a partnership with the SEE@ASU team and the Migratory Student Summer Academy, Loughman and Szkupinski Qurioga developed a weeklong STEM program to enhance migrant students’ math and science skills, engage in applied science, identify strengths and talents, and learn to work cooperatively.

In addition to featuring lessons and projects that drew on the migrant experience, the students were free to speak both English and Spanish during SEE@ASU activities to encourage English language learners to see how STEM transcends language barriers.

Getting hands-on with engineering

Students explored engineering disciplines through hands-on projects taught remotely by six faculty members from across the Fulton Schools. Each session helped participants learn about opportunities available in specific areas of engineering:

"It can be challenging to make an online format engaging, but the Fulton Schools faculty members put together some really excellent activities,” Loughman said. “All participants were shipped a maker's kit containing the supplies needed for their hands-on activities."

Boyer’s project — a camp favorite — introduced the lesser-known discipline of environmental engineering. Students were encouraged to collect a water source from an area around their homes, or create their own dirty water source, which they then learned to purify.

“That project highlighted a whole realm of engineering related to agriculture and water applications,” which were familiar to many of the migrant students, Loughman said.

“I loved the hands-on activities we were able to participate in despite being in a virtual environment," said Kavya, a senior at Centennial High School who participated in one of the SEE@ASU camps targeted to local high school students. "Experiments are my favorite part of learning, so these activities really helped me to understand each individual engineering discipline.”

The students also worked on a weeklong group project during the camp. The students were tasked with a challenge unique to their own experiences: using engineering to develop a solution that would help people in the migrant community.

“They all had different ideas — things around language use, physical labor, learning models and navigating the internet,” Szkupinski Quiroga said. “It was exciting to see how the Fulton Schools approach to engineering is not something far removed from their lives. They can see issues in their communities and in their parents’ work lives and how engineering can solve those things.”

More than a fun week

In addition to learning about engineering, the purpose of SEE@ASU is to demystify the pathway to and experience of college. SEE@ASU participants also get their application fee waived if they apply to ASU. Current engineering undergraduate majors and non-STEM majors were on hand to talk to the high schoolers as near peers in candid question-and-answer sessions.

During the camp, migrant students worked with counselors who had participated in the ASU CAMP Scholars program, many of whom are engineering majors and all of whom are also migrant students.

“It made a difference to have someone close to their age to serve as role models who come from the same community and are now at ASU,” Szkupinski Quiroga said. “They could talk about what it’s like deciding to leave home” and also see how ASU is welcoming to migrant students like them.

The Migratory Student Summer Academy also provided arts and cultural opportunities on weekends, bookending the SEE@ASU camp with a curriculum designed by Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts graduate students to foster the students’ leadership skills.

“For someone to be the first one in their family to leave the rural community, to make that decision to go to ASU, you need to have that leadership potential,” Szkupinski Quiroga said.

With the inaugural academy and camp collaboration complete, Loughman said she and her team hope to be able to invite migrant students in-person next year to gain the full benefit of experiencing life on a college campus.

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Pandemic powers: Examining law and policy efforts

September 13, 2021

Experts from ASU Law on the scope of government during a pandemic crisis

In recent months, the terms “COVID fatigue” or “pandemic fatigue” have been used to describe the exhausted state of mind many people have endured because of lifestyle changes brought forth by the global pandemic. The public health crisis has become politically charged, adding to the complexities and nuances of fighting and preventing the spread of a deadly virus.

The legal landscape is also changing, rapidly, as new policies and mitigation efforts are introduced and challenged in court. Most recently, President Joe Biden announced new federal vaccine requirements that affect as many as 100 million Americans. For weeks, private businesses have been implementing vaccine mandates for employees, while school districts have been advocating for mask mandates to keep children safe.

At the center of the crisis is public health law and policy — important work necessary to keep communities safe. A number of questions have arisen alongside this work about how much power a state or the federal government might have in a time such as this.

To help answer some of these questions, ASU News spoke with James Hodge, the Peter Kiewit Foundation Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University, and Jennifer Piatt, a research scholar at the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at ASU.

Question: The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any other pandemic we’ve seen in our lifetimes. What legal duties do governments have to keep people safe?

 is the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at ASU.

James Hodge

James Hodge: With over 660,000 American deaths due directly to COVID-19, the pandemic is unquestionably the greatest public health threat the U.S. has faced in over a century. Since the 1918–1919 Spanish flu pandemic, we’ve clarified the legal duties of federal, state, tribal and local governments to protect the public’s health from stealthy, communal diseases. There may be no greater responsibility across all levels of governments than assuring the health and safety of populations. It’s embedded in constitutional theory, reflected in statutory and regulatory laws, and recognized by courts in balance with individual rights and interests. Yet, as the pandemic drags on, it has sorely tested our political will to use these powers effectively and fully to save lives and prevent excess morbidity. 

Q: In a public health emergency, how much power do the federal or state governments have to help keep people safe? 

Hodge: Federal and state governments are well-positioned with a bevy of public health emergency powers to respond to the pandemic. While the federal government’s powers are constitutionally enumerated, their invocation is supreme over conflicting state laws. Both Presidents Trump and Biden have declared, or sustained, multiple levels of emergency with coextensive powers and resources. They have also classified the pandemic as a national security threat, invoking exclusive federal roles and responsibilities.

States are major players in pandemic response efforts as well. As sovereign governments, they possess what are known as “police powers,” which allow them to act in the interests of public health and safety. State police powers are expansive and encompassing, subject to federal supremacy and constitutional limitations. They authorize distinct emergency efforts. This past year all 50 states declared various states of emergency in response to COVID-19 — the first time this has ever happened. Some states’ governors that rescinded their emergency declarations in early summer have had to re-declare them again in response to the spread of the delta variant.

Q: Many businesses are issuing vaccine mandates, especially as full FDA approval is granted for specific COVID-19 vaccines. What rights do businesses have to impose these mandates, and will challenges hold up in court?

 is a research scholar at the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at ASU.

Jennifer Piatt

Jennifer Piatt: Private employers have long been able to require employee vaccination. Employers must comply with federal protections pursuant to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other applicable laws in their implementation of mandates. Toward the end of last year, employers began wondering whether the emergency use authorization (EUA) status of COVID-19 vaccines would change that approach. On June 12, 2021, a federal district court in Texas gave an answer — federal language in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act specifically addressing EUA products does not prevent employers from mandating EUA vaccines. On July 26, the federal Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concurred with the court’s judgement in an opinion letter. Other cases addressing federal constitutional arguments have also generally supported vaccine mandates, though state laws recently enacted may affect permissible approaches in a specific state. That said, legal issues surrounding vaccination are continuing to shift in real time. The Biden administration recently announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently at work on an emergency standard which will require all businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination.

Q: Many of the preventative measures used in the beginning of the pandemic like mask mandates are now being blocked legally in select states. How are health officials and the public responding to these efforts legally?

Piatt: As addressed in our recent piece “Legal Interventions to Counter COVID-19 Denialism,” forthcoming in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, certain states have acted to limit public health powers, target mask mandates and prevent vaccination requirements, but there are several legal avenues still available for public health or other actors. Some limiting actions may face constitutional challenges. For example, a court preliminarily blocked application of a Florida law against Norwegian Cruise Line which would have prevented the business from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The court found the law violated First Amendment free speech protections and unconstitutionally burdened interstate commerce. Federal preemption and spending powers, as well as other laws prohibiting discrimination, may also limit or supersede conflicting state measures. CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) recently announced that nursing facilities would be required to implement staff vaccination to continue receiving funds. Other pathways include utilizing emergency waiver powers, or even reconsidering limiting actions against the specter of potential liability. In sum, though legal interventions may seem to curb public health action in certain states, avenues to challenge, supersede or avoid those denialistic actions remain available, and are continuing to change the legal landscape in real time.

Q: Based on what we've learned from COVID-19, what types of public health policy changes do you think need to be made to prepare for future disease outbreak or pandemics?

Hodge: Every major public health emergency event over the last two decades since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has led to systematic legal reforms designed to strengthen preparedness and response efforts. The unprecedented health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, are a catalyst for the most significant changes in the legal landscape ahead. In my view these include: 1) A substantial shift toward federal powers and prominence to quell pandemics; 2) Major health system reforms to ameliorate gross health disparities in pandemic response efforts; and 3) A recalibration of individual rights against the backdrop of critical public health emergency powers. Americans came into this pandemic with a perception of their constitutional rights. They’ll leave with a different view of these interests under a burgeoning body of court jurisprudence.

Piatt: A few of the most consistent themes I’ve seen emerging across all fronts during the COVID-19 pandemic are: 1) The necessity to implement a health-in-all-policies approach; and 2) The importance of prioritizing equity in all actions. The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to demonstrate the effects of policies which do not consider potential health repercussions, when those repercussions ultimately come to fruition, and has laid bare the disparities that must be confronted in future policy actions to ensure that all U.S. residents may truly be healthy.

For media inquiries, please contact Jimena Garrison, ASU media relations officer, at Jimena.Garrison@asu.edu.

Top image by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels