14:52 PM

Professionals Shine Spotlight on STEM at Engineering/Career Day


By Mark Kramer

It was a day where student projects were showcased and professionals shared their knowledge and advice at the Houston PREP Engineering/Career Day held at the University of Houston-Downtown on July 10.

Formally known as the Houston Pre-freshman Enrichment Program, the University of Houston-Downtown launched Houston PREP in the summer of 1989 to inspire students from economically and socially disadvantaged populations to pursue STEM-related careers.

“The intent of this program is to provide students with interactive and innovative learning experiences that heightens their interest in future STEM careers,” said Sangeeta Gad, director of the program. “We want students to embrace being lifelong learners and problem solvers.”

For six weeks, students have been putting what they have learned to work in a variety of areas. At the event, students presented some of their projects where they used principles of STEM in the process. The projects included the building of small slider cars that were able to travel various distances and the construction of standing tower-like structures, using popsicle sticks and following a detailed list of specifications. Robotics students shared a video with the audience showing the process of the construction of their robot from the programming phase to a fully-functioning device.

STEM professionals from several local companies shared demonstrations, along with knowledge and advice with students during various breakout sessions during the day. Presenters included representatives from Alliant Energy, Centerpoint Energy, Direct Energy, Johnson Space Center (NASA), CITGO, Previse Consulting, Schlumberger and Simvivo Labs.

Tami Mallett, vice president and chief information for the HP NGEN Alliance, gave an address to the students, encouraging them to “follow their dreams,” and having the belief that, “if you can dream it, you can do it.”

“You are learning the basic skills that you will use in STEM related jobs every day,” Mallett said. “What you sets you apart from others is your drive to always keep learning and to not be afraid to try new things. There are so many opportunities out there, and especially in the Houston area. If STEM is your passion, the future is unlimited.”

Paula Harris, global director for Schlumberger, shared that “doing the little things” is also important to those students choosing to pursue STEM careers.

“We’re not only looking for those who are knowledgeable in their field, we are looking for those who can lead, Harris said. “It’s those people that who are willing to take on tasks that others might shy away from and keep on trying that shows true determination and ability to take on any project. Those are the qualities of success and I know the students in this program possess those talents. ”

Students participating in this year’s program were from local school districts including Aldine ISD, Alief ISD, Galena Park ISD, Houston ISD, Harmony Public Schools, Sheldon ISD and Spring Branch ISD.

Corporate and Foundation Partners of the program included Bank of America, CenterPoint Energy, CITGO, The Powell Foundation, Schlumberger, the Mallett Family and the Whelan Family. Public Sector Partners are the Houston Food Bank – Kids Cafe, National Center for Women & Information Technology, National Science Foundation, Texas Legislature and the Texas Department of Transportation.

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.