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Mesa high school students demonstrate college projects

November 28, 2006

MESA, Ariz. — Arizona State University and Mesa Public School District have partnered to offer Mesa high school students interested in engineering a chance to experience it firsthand at the college level.

As part of student's regular school day, these high school students are enrolled in a Mesa Early College Academy (MECA) engineering class at ASU's Polytechnic campus.

ASU's University Student Initiatives and Mesa Public Schools have partnered to increase students' access to a quality university education. Through MECA, one of the partnership initiatives, Mesa students are enrolled in a variety of college-level classes on ASU's Tempe and Polytechnic campuses.

Engineering 101, the most recent addition to the menu of courses available, was added based on the recommendation of Chell Roberts, ASU chair and professor in the College of Technology and Innovation's Department of Engineering.

Roberts enlisted the help of three engineering faculty members to provide the high school seniors an educational experience typically available only to those attending private schools.

Engineering faculty members meet with the students in small teams twice a week on the Polytechnic campus, where they learn to design, build and engineer projects like bridges and robots. With successful completion of the first class, participating students have the opportunity to enroll in Engineering 102 during the spring semester.

"The MECA engineering class helps generate excitement about engineering as a career, provides college course credit and gives some students a chance to enter into the sophomore year of engineering upon graduation from high school," says Roberts. "Both of the semesters will help prepare them to enter college engineering programs easily and hit the ground running."

According to Mesa Public Schools administrator Carolyn O'Reilly, MECA allows students to explore university options and ensures their successful transition to college.

"Mesa Public School District is determined to provide an appropriate educational environment for each of our students," says O'Reilly. "For some high school students, a university campus is a perfect fit — at least for part of their school day."

The program is a win-win for everyone involved.

"The students are challenged academically and they get an authentic college experience, while still enjoying the benefits of living at home and attending high school," says O'Reilly. "They also begin college familiar with and prepared for the challenges they will face."

"We want good Arizona students to stay in Arizona and become great engineers," says Roberts. "The MECA program helps achieve this goal."

On Nov. 27, the first group of students through the program demonstrated their robotics ability in the Sumo Robotic Challenge, where robots battle as Sumo wrestlers. Four teams competed to see whose robot was able to stay in the "ring."

Each semester the engineering class has room for up to 15 high school seniors. Students who desire to be in the class need to have a GPA in the top 25 percent of their class and be calculus bound, preferably taking calculus. For information, contact Chell Roberts at (480) 727-2727 or the Mesa Public School District at (480) 472-0063.