Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer engineering program delivers hands-on experience

From left: Jimi Aguirre and his teammates Ulkar Alakbarova,
Brandon Caffie,  Dominika Wilk and Dillon Clark-Oden
following their app presentation at the Intel Ultimate
Engineering Experience.
Jimi Aguirre and his four teammates stand before a panel of judges, pitching their idea for a mobile app to help get children active. They developed their idea after hearing a presentation by the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA. After three minutes, a timer sounds and the judges ask questions for the next two minutes.

Aguirre and his team then return to their seats to listen to the remaining teams present. At the end of the day, a different proposal wins first place, but Aguirre and his team spend the next two weeks learning HTML and JavaScript language to build the app they pitched. Following that project, new teams will form and build a flying robot.

Following that project, new teams will form and learn how a microcontroller works and program it to control a flying quadcopter, a multicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors.

These are the experiences of the students participating in the Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience, a six-week summer program for undergrads exploring engineering. The curriculum focuses on building the skills students need in the workplace such as collaboration and critical thinking as well as gaining hands-on engineering experience.

“The program is intended to inspire the next generation of engineers and help them realize that engineering is really boundary-less,” said Cynthia Del Frate, program manager for the Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience. “It also gives us an opportunity to identify and connect with the top local talent.”

Hosted on the Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s (CGCC) Pecos campus, the program is one of three occurring this summer. The other two are in Sacramento, Calif. and Portland, Ore. The students work with Intel engineers and volunteers as they create and develop solutions designed to improve people’s lives.

   Aguirre, a sophomore at CGCC, feels honored to have been selected. At age 16, he moved out of his home, never completing high school. He pursued his passion for music and struggled to make ends meet. In 2007, he attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Gilbert and began his own recording studio. Being self-employed was “not as stable as I envisioned.”

Aguirre enrolled at CGCC and, while exploring career options in a college success class, realized he wanted a life for himself and his family beyond what an associates degree would provide. A subsequent class with biology professor Pushpa Ramakrishna reawakened his love of science and math.

“When Professor Ramakrishna teaches, you can feel it; her passion is so tangible. Being in her class reminded me of when I was young and my childhood fascination for all things science. When kids were buying comic books with their allowance, I was buying a microscope,” said Aguirre.

These two experiences helped Aguirre decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He has since joined the honor society Phi Theta Kappa and earned two scholarships. He continues to take 12 credits each semester while working full-time at two jobs.

“It’s challenging right now, but I focus on the future,” said Aguirre. “This experience will help me get there by networking and learning from professionals in the field.”

Networking is another important skill the program encourages the students to develop. “A powerful network will get you everywhere,” said Del Frate. “Not only for finding a job but for career growth.”
The last week of the program will help students develop job search skills, resumes and interviewing skills.

“This program is more broad than I expected and has been valuable for gaining experiences and skills that will help me provide my family with the life that I envision for us,” said Aguirre.

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