09:53 AM

Houston PREP’s Summer Tradition of Learning Goes Virtual


By Mark Kramer

Check out this example of a Houston PREP student's circuitry project in the above video.


A summer tradition of interactive learning continues to inspire area middle and high school students to explore new horizons in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The Houston PREP Pre-freshman Enrichment Program (now Houston PREP) was launched by UHD in 1989. Modeled after the TexPREP initiative at The University of Texas at San Antonio, Houston PREP is dedicated to inspiring students from economically and socially disadvantaged populations to pursue STEM-related careers.

While this year’s program moved to a virtual format, the spirit of learning has never been stronger.

More than 100 students are involved in STEM projects during the four-week event via Zoom video conferencing. Students participating in the program are from Greater Houston area schools.

“The students adapted to the virtual format quickly,” said Dr. Sangeeta Gad, Director of Houston PREP. “They have been just as busy in the online format as they would have been working in groups on different projects."

One of the student projects included the programming of small robots, powered by solar panels. Another group used physics and engineering skills to learn circuitry for interactive projects through the Arduino electronics platform.

Student Aryanrhea Singh shared a clever idea for her circuitry project. Singh is a student at DeBakey School for Health Professions in Houston ISD.

"My model was inspired by all of my favorite bank heist and spy movies. At first, I was planning to build a mall or space station from my old headphone case, but after finding my mom’s old jewelry box, an idea for a jewelry vault struck me," Singh said. "The model also has a room with a decoy gold watch, alarm, and neon bulb. I enjoyed making this model and coming up with new ideas for it!"

Gad noted that Houston PREP gives students the opportunity to put higher level thinking skills to work. "Our objective is to provide them with experiences that go well beyond the normal classroom setting,” she added.

All participating students, who are involved in research projects for mathematics, are creating a video to showcase their final project to fellow classmates.

Gad is grateful to sponsors Citgo, Schulmberger and Centerpoint Energy, which helped fund many program activities, as well as robotics and circuity kits that were mailed to the students’ homes.

“This year has been unprecedented,” Gad emphasized. “Their support was essential in providing innovative and memorable learning experiences for these students.”

To learn more about the program, visit the Houston PREP website.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) – the second-largest university in Houston – has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.

As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).

For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.