Program offers helping hand on the road to higher learning

December 15, 2010

ASU reaching out to young students in smaller Arizona communities to open doors to careers in engineering

Victor Robles recently graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering – and with hopes of going to graduate school and pursuing research in communications technology for radar systems. In addition to his academic achievements, Robles has been vice president of the ASU chapter of the Society of Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists, an officer in the ASU chapter of the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers and a mentor to younger university students. He’d like to earn a doctorate and go on to a career engineering “the most innovative top-of-the-line high technology.” Download Full Image

Robles says that only a few years ago he never would have imagined that today he would be anywhere near this point on a professional career path. He’s been returning to his hometown in Douglas, Ariz., to speak to local high school and community college students about how they might follow in his footsteps.

Offering opportunities

Robles is one of hundreds of students benefitting each year from the Motivated Engineering Transfer Students (METS) program that provides opportunities for careers in engineering and computer science for Arizona students starting out in community colleges. The program has “completely changed my life,” Robles says. “Had it not been for the knowledge I got [through METS] and the encouragement to pursue graduate school, I would have been just another undergraduate student at the library with very little to show for it.”

For many years, hundreds of students have been transferring into ASU’s engineering programs each year. Until 2002, however, there was only a single orientation event to support transfer students. Today, through the growth of the METS program, there are opportunities for scholarships, a campus meeting place, seminars, mentoring and networking opportunities designed specifically for transfer students.

Recruitment and retention results are demonstrating the program’s effectiveness. In the 2009 fall semester, almost 230 students from community colleges and other schools had transferred to ASU engineering programs. In 2010, another 350 students transferred. More impressively, more than 95 percent of junior-year and senior-year students who earn METS program scholarships are graduating. This is a higher retention and graduation rate than those for students entering ASU engineering programs as freshmen.

Overall, junior-year and senior-year engineering transfer students’ graduation rates are 70 percent for men and 60 percent for women. More than 50 percent of the METS transfer students who earned scholarships are now going on to graduate school full time for master’s or doctorate degrees – compared to just 20 percent of engineering transfer students nationwide.

The success of these ASU engineering transfer students is all the more impressive because the scholarship recipients have a lack of financial resources, so many of them also work jobs while attending school full time.

Targeting a talent pool

Success with upper-division transfer students predominantly from the local Maricopa County Community College District helped earn a grant of $2.5 million over five years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2009 to expand the METS program efforts coordinated at ASU by engineering faculty members Mary Anderson-Rowland and Armando Rodriguez.

Anderson-Rowland, associate professor in the School for Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, is the leader of the METS expansion project funded by the NSF grant. Rodriguez, professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is the co-leader.

The funding is through the NSF’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Talent Expansion Program (STEP), which aims to increase the ranks of young engineers and computer scientists to meet the nation’s growing needs for technological advancement and economic expansion. It’s enabling Anderson-Rowland and Rodriquez to reach beyond the community colleges in the greater Phoenix area and team with five community colleges in rural areas – Central Arizona, Western Arizona, Eastern Arizona, Cochise and Mohave colleges – to intensify recruitment of transfer students.

They’re targeting “a significant pool of untapped engineering talent” among community college students, Anderson-Rowland says.

Support network

The METS-STEP project goal is to develop a supply chain of high-quality engineering students through aiding the community colleges in their outreach to local high school students and by providing classroom materials, tutoring, speakers and tuition scholarships to cover costs of community college engineering courses.

In addition, the project includes “Be an Engineer” events on community college campuses for students and their parents, providing a contingent of experienced student mentors, and hosting ASU orientation programs specifically for transfer students.

Once at ASU, transfer students are supported by the METS Center, where they can study together and get mentoring and training in academic and career planning.

“Our mentors are faculty members and METS Center staff members who are supportive and empathetic,” Anderson-Rowland says. “And new transfer students will find other students to network with who understand the challenges that new students are facing.”

National impact

The NSF and ASU recruitment and retention efforts are important to help stem the drop in the number of United States citizens earning engineering degrees, she says.

METS-STEP also is expected to have a national impact by developing effective ways for other universities and community colleges to form partnerships to encourage students to pursue engineering careers and help them make the transition into university programs. The NSF grant also provides for several types of scholarships to help dozens of transfer students each year cover some of the costs of attending ASU.

With the METS-STEP program's emphasis on encouaging students to pursue opportunities for research experience and to consider graduate school, “We expect to help produce a significant and diverse pool of engineering talent to serve the nation’s needs,” Anderson-Rowland says.

Overcoming struggles

The NSF’s support for ASU’s program has been spurred by a solid track record of recruiting and retention success, she says. Students can attest to her claim. Diana Sarmiento struggled when she first enrolled in community college several years ago. Her grades were so low that she dropped out.

She later started over at Estrella Mountain Community College, earned an associate’s degree in science and came to ASU with help from the METS program. Through METS she learned about time management that helped her cope with the challenges of university engineering studies – even while working jobs in addition to attending school full-time. METS workshops taught her how to effectively compose a resume and develop a portfolio displaying her skills.

“I got some really good advice that helped me get through,” she says.

Sarmiento went on to earn four internship positions – including experience as a research assistant – and work as a teaching assistant. She served as president of the ASU chapter of the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers and secretary of the ASU chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Sarmiento expects to graduate in 2011 with a degree in mechanical engineering. She’ll look for a job in industry after graduation but plans to eventually earn a master’s of business administration degree.

Steps to success

Mara Ramos has a similar story. She went to ASU right after high school but found she wasn’t ready for the university environment. She dropped out.

After becoming a single mother and a few false starts at other schools, Ramos began earning good grades at Mesa Community College that would make her eligible for support to return to ASU through the METS program.

Through the program she learned study techniques, was put under the wing of a supportive faculty mentor and participated in an undergraduate research program and research projects led by a faculty member. She learned “you don’t have to be genius to go to graduate school, just a hard worker.”

Today, Ramos is pursuing a doctorate in environmental engineering and hopes to help solve the world’s sanitation and water-quality problems.

Steve Blodgett went back to college in his mid-30s after a career as a photographer. He earned an associate’s degree in general studies at Mesa Community College, then came to ASU through the METS program after deciding to study chemical engineering.

He had earning only a bachelor’s degree in mind, but with Anderson-Rowland’s prodding he set his sights higher.

“I used the METS Center a lot. I learned study skills. I got advice and encouragement to seek support to go to grad school,” he says. “It had a big impact.”

Through internships and research experiences during his time at ASU, he says, “I realized that graduate school is really where I need to be” to have a career that will make an impact. Blodgett is now in a graduate program at the University of Michigan where he will do research in sustainable hydrogen production and other renewable energy resources.

Turning lives around

“It’s gratifying to be reaching young students who don’t have a lot of resources in their small communities to learn about science and engineering career opportunities,” says professor Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has been working for a decade to get support for outreach efforts, scholarships and grants to help students transfer to the university.

“When you show them you care, when you show them how to navigate their way in a big university, and give them tutoring and mentoring,” he says, “it’s amazing to see them turn into dedicated students who are taking their career goals seriously.”

The METS-STEP project also is helping get students connected to industry, which often leads to internship opportunities.

 “Industry leaders want to cultivate a larger pool of engineers to hire, so companies have supported us,” Anderson-Rowland says.

She’s committed to keep the flow of transfer students running high.

“An engineering career was not even on the radar screen for a lot of these students when they were in high school,” she says, “and even when they’re in community college they don’t think they’re smart enough to get scholarships or go to a university. So it’s fulfilling to know you’re providing young people with options in their lives.”

For more information about the METS program, visit">">

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Reno TOC awaits ASU wrestling

December 15, 2010

Sun"> Devil Mat Notes & Statistics (pdf)

The second of two tournaments in the state of Nevada is on the schedule for the No. 24 Arizona State University wrestling team this weekend as the Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10) are set to compete in the Reno Tournament of Champions on Sunday at the Downtown Convention Center in Reno, Nev. The tournament, which will consist of mainly NCAA Division I teams, including three ranked in the Top 25 nationally, will be held over the course of one day. Download Full Image

• ASU is currently ranked No. 22 (NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll)
• Robles (#3) and Jenkins (#3) remained in the national Top 3 this week
• Robles won the Las Vegas Invitational and Outstanding Wrestling Award
• Meredith placed eighth at Las Vegas and is now nationally ranked
• ASU making its 12th appearance at the Reno Tournament of Champions
• ASU’s trip this weekend is its second of 2 in December to the state of Nevada
• Every two years, an ASU athlete wins a Reno title (2006, 2008)
• Robles has 95 wins, needing 10 more to join the Century Club

The Sun Devils remained in the Top 25 this week in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll, sliding two positions to No. 24. Cornell remained the top-ranked team in the nation while fellow Pac-10 team Boise State (#6) and Oregon State (#14) are the lone conference schools ranked ahead of the Sun Devils.

Looking at the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, six of Arizona State’s opponents are currently ranked in the Top 25. Overall, ASU’s schedule includes duals with No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Oklahoma (L, 32-7), No. 12 Iowa State, No. 13 Nebraska, No. 14 Oregon State and No. 23 American.

According to Amateur Wrestling News, only two individual Sun Devils carry national rankings this week, but both are highly regarded as Anthony">">... Robles and Bubba">">B... Jenkins are among the Top 3 nationally in their weight classes. Robles remained at No. 3 in the 125-pound weight class while Jenkins moved back to No. 3 at 157 pounds.

Four other ranking services have Robles and Jenkins consistently in the Top 4 with Robles at No. 3 across the board while Jenkins is No. 3 in one poll and No. 4 in the three others. Including the remaining four rankings this week, Jake">">Jake Meredith joins the nationally recognized Sun Devils as he holds rankings of No. 15 (, No. 17 (InterMat), No. 19 ( and No. 25 ( at 184 pounds. In the coming weeks, the NCAA will begin releasing its Coaches Top 33 Projections, which will be used to help select the 33 participants in each weight class at the end of the season for the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia, Pa.

This weekend’s tournament will mark the 12th time overall and the 12th year in a row that the Sun Devils will compete in the Reno Tournament of Champions where Arizona State has placed among the Top 6 overall nine times, including the past two tournaments (6th in 2008, 5th in 2009). Starting in 1999, the Sun Devils ran off a streak of six Reno appearances in a row in which they finished either second (2000, 2003, 2004) or third (1999, 2001, 2002). The team also finished fifth last year and sixth in both 2005 and 2008.

The last time a Sun Devil won an individual title at the Reno Tournament of Champions came at the 2008 tournament when Anthony">">... Robles and Chris">">Chris Drouin won the 125 and 141-pound weight classes, respectively. Robles nearly repeated his 2008 performance last year by reaching the finals, but fell short of his second title in a row. Prior to the wins in 2008, the last Sun Devils to win in Reno were Ryan">">Ryan Bader and Cain">">... Velasquez, who captured the 197 and heavyweight titles, respectively, in 2006.

The 2010 Reno Tournament of Champions field will be comprised of 27 teams with 18 from NCAA Division I, two from NCAA Division II, five from NAIA and two from NJCAA. Of those 27 teams, 12 are currently ranked in their respective national polls, including No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Boise State and No. 24 ASU. The ranked teams in the smaller divisions include: No. 6 Minnesota State (Mankato) and No. 16 Adams State from NCAA Division II; No. 3 Great Falls, No. 10 Montana State Northern, No. 11 Southern Oregon, No. 12 Oklahoma City and No. 16 Hastings College from NAIA; and No. 7 Clackamas and No. 12 Southwestern Oregon from NJCAA.

A total of 78 individuals that are ranked in their respective divisions will be on hand to compete this Sunday, including at least six ranked individuals in each weight class. While the 157 and 184-pound weight classes have 10 ranked wrestlers set to compete, the 197 weight class (seven ranked) is the lone weight that has at least one nationally ranked wrestler from each of the four divisions represented. The 184 weight class also carries the distinction of being one of the tougher brackets as six of those 10 ranked wrestlers are from the NCAA Division I rankings while both 133 and 157 have five Division I ranked wrestlers. Depending upon who enters into the final brackets, 133 and 184 could have the Top 2 ranked NCAA Division I wrestlers competing while 157 will have No. 3 (Bubba">">B... Jenkins of ASU) and No. 2 (Adam Hall of Boise State).

Arizona State had five individuals place among the Top 6, including runner-up Anthony">">... Robles at 125 pounds, as the Sun Devils finished fifth overall at the 2009 Reno Tournament of Championships, marking the team’s best finish since a third-place showing in 2002. Along with Robles’ second-place finish, the other Sun Devils that earned a Top 6 finish included Chris">">Chris Drouin (5th at 141); Vicente">">... Varela (5th at 149); Eric">">Eric Starks (6th at 174) and Erik">">Erik Nye (4th at heavyweight).

This week’s tournament action marks the second event in a row that the Sun Devils will be competing in the Silver State. Arizona State competed at the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational (December 3-4) for their first event in the state of Nevada.

Arizona State finished tied for 12th as a team with three individuals placing in the tough annual tournament in Las Vegas, including two Sun Devils that reached the final of their weight classes. Anthony">">... Robles rolled to the title at 125 pounds as he went 5-0 with three technical falls, one major decision and one 8-4 decision. Robles defeated No. 8 Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma), 13-1, in the final to take the crown. At 157, Bubba">">B... Jenkins also reached the final, using three major decisions and two one-point victories to reach the last match where he fell, 2-1 in the tiebreaker, to No. 3 Adam Hall. At 184 pounds, Jake">">Jake Meredith went 4-3 and finished eighth overall, using three wins in a row in the consolation rounds to reach the medal matches.

In Las Vegas, Robles went 5-0 with three technical falls, one major decision and one decision to capture the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational 125-pound championship. At the same time, his performance was noticed by the coaches in attendance as they collectively voted him the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament. Robles’ scores were 16-0 tech fall over Shane Young (Wyoming); 8-4 decision over Steven Keith (Harvard); 17-0 tech fall over Jason Lara (Oregon State); 17-0 tech fall over No. 7 Jarrod Garnett (Virginia Tech) in the semifinal; and 13-1 major over No. 8 Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma) in the final.

So far this season, Anthony">">... Robles seems to be having his way with most of his opponents as the senior has jumped to a 9-0 start with his closest victory being an 8-4 decision over Steven Keith of Harvard at Las Vegas (the second-closest is a 13-1 major decision in the Las Vegas final over No. 8 Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma). Overall, Robles has won one major decision, five technical falls and one pin fall. He also won a 20-2 technical fall over No. 4 Zach Sanders of Minnesota at the NWCA All-Star Classic, but that match was an exhibition event and doesn’t count toward his season record.

Heading into his senior campaign, Anthony">">... Robles held a career record of 84-23 and now, with a 9-0 record so far this year, needs just five more wins to become the 23rd different Sun Devil to break the century mark. Robles, who is 95-23 all-time with the Sun Devils, is currently ranked 23rd all-time in career wins at Arizona State and will need eight more wins (103 total) to break into the Top 20 as he will tie with three others for 19th place, including head coach Shawn">">S... Charles.

Jake">">Jake Meredith is starting to get noticed, thanks in large part to his performance at the Las Vegas Invitational, where he finished eighth overall at 184 pounds with a 4-3 record, including an upset victory (3-1) over No. 18 Tommy Spellman of Virginia Tech to reach the medal rounds. Nationally ranked this week, Meredith’s lone losses came to a pair of nationally ranked foes, including one to No. 4 A.J. Kissel of Purdue and twice to No. 15 Luke Reburtus of Navy (a pair of 3-1 decisions). So far this year, Meredith is 10-5 overall.

Just as Eric">">Eric Starks avenged a dual loss to Victor Carazo (Grand Canyon) by defeating him in the final of the Fullerton Open at 174 pounds, Jake">">Jake Meredith exacted a bit of revenge as well last week in a dual with CS Fullerton. At the Fullerton Open, Meredith reached the final and faced Todd Noel (CSUF) where he fell to the Titan, 5-3, to take second place. One week later, Meredith came out on top with a 5-0 decision to move to 1-0 in Pac-10 action, which will help with his seeding at the Pac-10 Championships later this season.

Heading into the Las Vegas Invitational, the Sun Devils have won 21 matches by fall with five of those wins coming in one minute or less while 15-of-21 falls have occurred in the first period of action. Ten of the Sun Devil falls also have come in less than two minutes. So far this year, Luke">">Luke Ashmore (149) has the fastest fall recorded with his pin in 41 seconds at the Fullerton Open while David">">David Prado (133) is right behind him at 0:47. Michael">"... Hawkins has a pair of sub-one minute pins, including times of 0:53 and 0:59, while Jake">">Jake Meredith closes out the one-minute pinners with a fall of 1:00.

Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in time for the 1978-79 season, the Sun Devils have built a 29-4-1 all-time record in their first conference dual of the season. Arizona State is 13-0-1 in its last 14 Pac-10 openers with its last loss coming during the 1996-97 season in a 21-18 set back to CS Bakersfield in Tempe. ASU has won nine of its last 11 home Pac-10 openers including the 25-19 defeat of CS Fullerton last week.

Dating back to Arizona State joining the conference for the 1978-79 season, the Sun Devils have been one of 18 different schools that called the Pac-10 home with ASU and six others still competing (including Boise State, Cal Poly, CS Bakersfield, CS Fullerton, Oregon State and Stanford). Against current members of the Pac-10, ASU holds an 82-23-1 all-time record and stands 128-23-1 all-time when including all 17 teams that are/have been in the Pac-10.

In the 32 years the Sun Devils have competed in the Pac-10 Conference, they have won 16 championship crowns and 100 individual Pac-10 titles. When you include all 48 years the Pac-10 has sponsored a wrestling championship, the Sun Devils trail only Oregon State in both categories as the Beavers have won 17 team titles and 117 individual titles. Also since ASU joined the conference, the Sun Devils and Boise State are the only two schools to have won at least one individual title in each of the 10 current weight classes while ASU is the only school in Pac-10 history to win at least one title in each of the 19 weight classes that have been used since 1979.

Although the results won’t count toward their season and career records, both Anthony">">... Robles and Bubba">">B... Jenkins dominated at the 45th NWCA All-Star Classic in Fresno, Calif., as the Sun Devil posted the only two wins by something other than a decision. First up was No. 3 Robles, who scored a 20-2 technical fall over No. 4 Zach Sanders (Minnesota) at 125 pounds. Then, Jenkins took to the mat at 157 pounds as the No. 6 Sun Devil upset No. 1 Adam Hall (Boise State) with a 12-4 major decision. Only three other matches contested saw a wrestler win by four or more points at the annual exhibition event.

With the two wins on the opening day of the season, the Sun Devils improved to 64-9-0 all-time against teams from the state of Arizona and extended their winning streak to 44 in a row in the process. The last time Arizona State lost to a fellow Copper State school came on February 13, 1973, when visiting Arizona won, 18-17. The Sun Devils also improved to 28-6-0 all-time in road duals inside the state after winning their 19th and 20th in a row.

With their 29-8 victory at Grand Canyon Saturday morning, the Sun Devils improved to 35-14-0 all-time in their first dual of the season. Following a 2-0 record on the road, the Sun Devils now turn their attention to their first home dual of the year with No. 8 Oklahoma in town. The Sun Devils are 32-16-0 all-time in their first home dual of the season and have won four in a row. The dual with the Sooners will mark the third time Arizona State has faced OU in its home opener with the Sooners winning the previous two instances, 32-7 (Dec. 3, 1964) and 23-21 (Dec. 4, 1985).

The next action for the Sun Devils will come at home on January 2 as the No. 2 Cowboys of Oklahoma State visit Wells Fargo Arena for a 6 p.m. dual. Several unattached individuals from the program will also compete ahead of that dual at the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill., December 29-30.