Week-long Conference Gives Opportunities for Achievement and Education

secme2A team of students works on modifications to their robot between competitions at the UAB Campus Rec Center. Participating students came from several states all across the country.The 38th Annual Southeastern Consortium for Minorities In Engineering (SECME) Summer Institute concluded on Friday with a day of tours and demonstrations at the School of Engineering.

SOE faculty and student volunteers explained the many opportunities available to students in the various engineering disciplines taught at UAB.

“For many of these students, this is the first time they’ve been able to set foot on a college campus and see the opportunities that a university offers its students,” said Michele Williams, interim executive director of SECME, Inc. “That’s one of the real values of this week, to allow them to see firsthand what they can experience as a student at a place like the UAB School of Engineering.”

More than 100 middle and high school students from across the nation participated in the event, which covered three days of workshops, tours, and competitions.

Student participants earned their way into to the UAB event by winning local or regional events. The result was some high-level competition on Thursday when they put their pitted their engineering skills against one another in competitions involving robotics and mousetrap cars.

(Story continues beneath the slideshow. Photos by Tyler Harris.)

“The skill-level of these designs was very impressive,” said Alan Eberhardt, Ph.D., associate dean of the School of Engineering, ”particularly when you consider the age of many of these students was 13 or 14 years old. When you recognize what these students are capable of, it really hammers home the responsibility we have to make opportunities like this available. This week was focused on groups that are traditionally underrepresented in our fields, and the work they were able to do is exceptional.”

secme9Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd offered a keynote speech on minority representation among engineering graduates as part of her speech at Thursday's luncheon. Photo by Tyler HarrisThe imbalance of minority representation in engineering was a topic of discussion throughout the week, with more than 120 K-12 educators from around the nation attended workshops in STEM to enhance student achievement and interest in engineering and related subjects. The latter part of the week also included a STEM Pipeline Diversity Summit, which included a keynote address by Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd, Ph.D., at a luncheon attended by a large crowd of university, industry, and government partners.

“Any one of the components of this week would have made for an outstanding event, but putting all of this together for one week is a remarkable achievement,” said SOE Dean Iwan Alexander, Ph.D. “It can sometimes be tough to coordinate things during this time of year, but we’ve had several faculty and staff members go the extra mile to make sure this event was a success. I appreciate their efforts, and I’m proud to have our school associated with an organization like SECME.”