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Feature Interview: Minority Engineering Program

Name: Santiago Ibarra Rico

Year: Senior

Major: Aeronautical Engineering

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

What program(s) are you involved in? I have been involved in SEW, Preface, ABC, and MITE.

Tell me a little bit about this program? Both the SEW and Preface programs are programs that target students in middle school and underclassmen in high school. These programs introduce the students to engineering by showing them that engineering is not only about math, but also about using your imagination to solve everyday problems. We also scale down larger engineering feats to a smaller magnitude so that the students can view larger problems in a smaller way.

ABC Bootcamp and MITE are different from the two other programs in that they target upperclassmen in high school. MITE helps prepare students for the SAT and also begins to show them the type of material that they will see if they choose to pursue an engineering degree after high school graduation. ABC, on the other hand, begins to expose incoming Purdue freshmen to the curriculum that they will begin once school starts in the fall.

What do you do for this program? For SEW and Preface I served as a Program Assistant. As a program assistant I was in charge of answering any questions that students had. I also had the opportunity of directing my own project, an egg drop. This project was a simplification of the landing of the Curiosity Mars Rover. For this project students had to construct a shell that would protect an egg as it fell from one or two stories, very similar to what NASA engineers did to protect the rover as it landed in Mars.

For ABC and Mite I served as a tutor to the students where I was able to interact with students on a one-on-one basis. I not only answered questions about the work they were given but also questions ranging from Purdue courses to campus life.

What is your favorite part of the program? I truly enjoyed working with and getting to know the students that I interacted with because only a few years ago I was in the same positions that they are currently in. I was also able to see the students’ growth throughout the programs.  Engineering is not for everyone and while some students decided that they did not want to further pursue engineering, some others grew more passionate about engineering which is the program’s goal. However, all students were able to expand their knowledge about engineering and learned why this major did or did not interest them; something that is truly vital when preparing for education after high school.

Why did you get involved in this program? I first learned about the programs from Dr. Cinthia Sanchez, MEP’s Outreach and Retention Administrator, and having previously worked with younger students I saw it as a good opportunity to expand the minds of younger students that will become future engineers.

How has this program affected you as an engineering student? I have had the opportunity to work alongside and gain knowledge from other engineering students that are not only pursuing their bachelor’s degree but also their master’s or PhD.

Would you recommend this program to incoming students?  I would highly recommend these programs to any and all incoming students because it gives them a perspective that not all other incoming students are able to obtain, and for ABC students it allows them to get to meet and befriend other students that they will be working with during their schooling.

Do you have any advice for incoming minority engineering students? My advice to all students, not just minority students, is to stick with it and most important of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, remember that MEP is in a way your family away from home and anyone here will do whatever they can to help you succeed and reach any goal that you set for yourself.

Did you participate in a similar program when you were younger, and if so, how did it benefit you? I did not participate in any similar programs when I was younger. However, after seeing these programs’ results, I would highly recommend them to any student that is interested in learning more about engineering.

How has MEP or this program benefited you academically and professionally? I became a part of MEP in January and in that short time I have grown a lot. I have also been able to meet a lot of highly motivated and friendly individuals that share my same goal and are more than willing to share their experiences and knowledge with me.

What other organizations are you involved in on campus? I have been involved with College Mentors For Kids as well as AIAA.

So what do you plan to do professionally? After graduation I plan on pursuing a job in either consulting or computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and later returning to school to pursue a master’s degree in engineering.

Making the World a Softer Place

My name is Katie Polson, and I am a rising sophomore in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. This summer I am working at Procter & Gamble as a Product Supply Fabric Care Technical Engineering Intern in Cincinnati, OH. What that title really means is that I am involved in several projects supporting Downy® Fabric Softener.

Through the interview process, and especially when I started my internship, I was very nervous that I would lack the technical skills that other, more senior engineers possessed. I had only just completed my first two semesters as an engineering student and only a few weeks prior had I been actually admitted to the School of Mechanical Engineering. I had yet to take a thermo, statics, or fluid dynamics class, but there I was – a technical engineering intern at a Fortune 500 company; needless to say, I was more than a bit intimidated.

However, as I neared the end of my internship, I can say with confidence that Purdue’s first- year engineering program prepared me well for industry. I have been able to build a technical mastery of the Downy® making and packing processes. I have earned Intermediate Level Certification in Micro Clean Design. I have created my own test plans and run trials at our plants to find the root cause of issues and I have grown and developed my analytical and problem solving skills. My first-year engineering courses taught me how to systematically approach a problem like an engineer and helped me learn the right questions to ask when I lacked understanding. I found this skill set far more useful than knowing a plethora of fluid flow equations, since those are easy enough to look up.

Katie wearing her Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

This summer, I learned that having a passion for engineering and genuine curiosity can take you much further than a long list of completed courses. There is no class at any university that could have taught me all the specific skills and knowledge set I would need to succeed as a Fabric Care Engineer. However, what Purdue did was equip me with the set of skills that all engineers need to be successful – thinking like an engineer. Because of this, I was able to be a successful engineer working on real projects and leaving a lasting impact in the projects I worked on.

Nicole Futch: Study Abroad

When the summer began, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew I had signed up for a study abroad program in New Zealand and Australia that would run for a month. I knew that I would be studying rainforest conservation and corresponding policies in both countries (yes, there is a rainforest in Australia). I also knew that it wouldn’t be like anything I had ever done before.

This program turned out to be one of the highlights of my life, to say the least. Previously, I had never thought that I would be able to see what I saw that early in my life. I got to take opportunities that would have never arisen if I had just gone there on a visit; for example, our class stayed with a Maori family for three days in New Zealand, learning about their history, culture, and current ways of life. Had I been just a tourist, I don’t think I would have gotten an opportunity like that. I believe that the experiences I’ve had on this trip will help me in my future endeavors, as I have learned many things during this course.

The first thing I learned was how to travel, as this trip was extremely travel-intensive. Simply traveling to and from these places required six different flights (three of which were international and made us go through customs), two separate hostel stays, countless hours of getting into and out of assorted vehicles, and learning how to exchange and use foreign currency and payment systems, to name a few.

I also learned many things that could benefit me in a classroom. In fact, I was one of only two engineers out of 20 students on the program. Being such, I more or less proved myself as being able to think analytically and see solutions wherever problems arose. I got called on for mechanical difficulties, computer problems, and even questions about how the airplanes we were on flew (good thing I’m an Aerospace engineer).

This program, however, rounded out my mind to be able to think more along the lines of a biologist, who is trained to know about the things of nature and who doesn’t have to think in steps all the time. This different way of thinking helped me to see that the answers I seek are, in fact, actually right in front of me sometimes.

Finally, I learned about other people. There were 20 students in the program, including myself. The program was set up to require everyone to live, work, and study as a unit, very nearly 24/7. This organization made it crucial to understand and learn to work with all of the different personality types that surrounded me for the entire month. All of these skills will be helpful to me in both my current education and a future career, plus I will have a fantastic experience to remember as well. This was one of the best programs I’ve ever completed, and I know I’m way better off because of it.

Äventyr på Sverige (Adventures in Sweden)

My name is Ashley Devore.  I just finished my sophomore year in Environmental and Ecological Engineering.  In my two years at Purdue, I have joined many clubs and organizations and have been able to participate in many cool and unique experiences.  This summer I got to participate in my most exciting experience yet: studying abroad!

This summer I went on a 10 day Maymester program to Sweden.  The focus of this program was on sustainability, and was open to students who had taken CE/EEE 350/355.  There were about 17 of us students who went, and it was the first year of this program; most were either in Environmental and Ecological Engineering or in Civil Engineering.  We went to Sweden because Sweden has implemented many sustainable practices and has gained prominence as being a very sustainable country.  We looked at what Sweden was doing to be sustainable in all of its different sectors, such as energy, food, water, and government.  We also compared what the U.S. does and what Sweden does and looked at why it is possible for Sweden to do certain things but not the U.S. and vice-versa.  I definitely learned a lot about sustainability in Sweden, as well as a lot about Sweden culture. 

While I was in Sweden, my group and I stayed in the capital city of Stockholm.  Stockholm is a very unique city in that it is actually an archipelago of islands all connected together by bridges and public transportation.  Stockholm is definitely a modern city, but it is still rich with history; there are modern parts of the city, and then there are older parts of the city. 

As I said above, we looked at sustainability in Sweden across its different sectors.  The first sector we examined was Sweden’s government.  We went to several of Sweden’s government offices and learned about what they do there and got an overview of Sweden’s government system and what role environmental issues play there.  Sweden has at the moment 8 political parties represented; in fact, the green party in Sweden actually holds a lot of power!  Sweden also has a monarchy, but they are mainly symbolic and do not hold any real power.  While we were looking at Sweden’s government, we went to the Riksdag (the Swedish Parliament), Stockholm City Hall, and the Royal Palace.

Stockholm City Hall
Royal Palace

We then looked at Sweden’s energy.  Sweden uses a lot of biogas for their energy so they are very green.  We got to go to a district heating plant and saw how it operated.  It was very cool because it brought some of my classes to life and applied things I had learned that year (such as thermodynamics)

We also took a look at Sweden’s transportation.  Sweden uses a lot of public transportation; we didn’t use a car once while we were there!  We mainly used the subway and bus systems, as well as LOTS of walking (no wonder everyone is so fit there!).  We got to opportunity to attend lectures about Sweden’s bus fleet, which is unique because all of the buses run on bio-fuel. We also got a tour of the Arlanda Airport, and got see what sustainable things they do there.

Arlanda airport

In addition, we also took several tours of wastewater treatment plants.  One tour that we saw was of an experimental waste water treatment plant where they are doing labs and experiments.  Another was of a working wastewater treatment plant that cleaned water so it could be returned to the sea.  That one was cool because they produced bio-gas from their activities which they then sold to other companies and people to use. 

Wastewater Plant

While in Stockholm we also spent a lot of time at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.  We would go to KTH to attend lectures put on by professors and learned about a number of different topics, such Sweden’s bus fleets, robots, and algae farming.  KTH is a beautiful campus and we all had a great time just hanging out on campus as well.  We even got invited to hang out with some of the students there, and we ended up playing soccer with them.  That was a really special experience because afterwards we saw that we were near the 1912 Olympic Soccer Stadium, and we went and checked it out.

KTH Royal Institute of

We also had time for some touristy stuff as well.  While we did have homework assignments while we were there, we quickly learned that if we stayed on top of them we could still have time for lots of fun stuff.  For example, one day we went on a boat tour of the archipelago.  It was a 3 hour boat ride, and we ended up going to a little island and hiked around.  It was very nice because we got to see some beautiful views and it was just fun to be on the water too.

Studying abroad is a great way to spend your summer, and I am so glad that I went on this trip.  I did a lot of new things and was really brought out of my comfort zone.  If you are ever thinking about studying abroad, I highly recommend it.  You will get to experience and learn so many new things, and make many lasting memories.  My study abroad experience will definitely be a highlight of my college career.

Summer on Campus

Hello, my name is Leo Kullman. I am a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering and a student in the honors college. I will begin a co-op with Cook Pharmica this fall. In order to meet graduation requirements in a timely fashion, I am taking classes this summer at Purdue West Lafayette. For the Maymester, I took Microeconomics and am now taking Mechanical Engineering Statics and Calculus 3. Summer classes are an interesting experience. The curriculum is sped up twice as fast as the regular semester, but I spend the same amount of time in the class as if I had taken it in the fall. That means the biggest difference is in the time I have to do homework and the time I have to study. For this reason, summer classes can be more difficult that regular semester courses. However, most professors give less homework and comprehensive exams to make up for the accelerated pace.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time in these classes. It’s a good way to get ahead or stay on track, and because I’m only taking two courses at a time, I get to focus more on the coursework than in the regular semester when I’m taking many more classes. This has also been a good time for me to meet other co-op students who are taking classes over the summer to also stay on track.

In addition to my summer classes, I’m also working as a student researcher for Dr. Eric Nauman. Dr. Nauman is head of Honors Engineering at Purdue and is in charge of the Seminar for Top Engineering Prospects, a summer camp for incoming high school seniors run by honors engineering. I am working with a team of other honors engineers to develop curriculum for the week long engineering experience. My main duties involve building a hexapod robot, wiring the electronics to be compatible with the tasks we wish to do, and writing code for robot movement using inverse kinematics. All of this while trying to find a way to teach students how to do the same in a matter of days. When the camp begins in mid-July I will be on the Projects Team Staff. This has overall been a very good experience and has let me interact with both professors and upperclassmen researchers.

This summer I’m living in Harrison Hall with a friend from my freshman dorm as a roommate. Living in summer dorms is very different than living in the dorms during the regular academic year. Due to the variety of lengths of summer courses, there are students moving in and out of the dorm every weekend. Also, there are only two dining courts open during the summer, with much more limited hours. The Co-Rec also has shorter hours. However, there are still events to go to during the summer. Every Wednesday there are snacks and games on the Union lawn, every other weekend there are free movies at Fowler Hall, and about once a month there are cookouts for students to eat at and meet new friends. Between class, work, and campus life, I am having a very good experience at Purdue this summer.

Being Involved: Symphony Orchestra

Kelsey (on right) enjoys a spring day with her roommate and best friend, Mallory (left)

My name is Kelsey Delehanty and I am a sophomore in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at Purdue. During my freshman year, most of my school day was taken up with my STEM classes: First Year Engineering, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics. This wasnt a problem for me; after all, I decided to pursue a major like engineering because I enjoyed these types of classes. However, too much math and science still put a strain on my brain, which was why it was nice for me to have a non-engineering related outlet, like Purdues Symphony Orchestra.

Id been playing the viola in my schools orchestra since I was in 4th grade, but upon graduating high school, I was unsure whether I would continue with it in college. I loved playing my instrument, but I was never too serious about it. I was worried that I wouldnt be up for playing in a college-level group.

However, once rehearsals started, my doubts were assuaged. The group was lively and very accommodating of a nervous freshman. I might not have been on the same playing level as the five juniors that made up the rest of the viola section, but I certainly learned a lot from them. Most importantly, it was time out of my day that I could take a break from the stress of my other classes.

There are so many activities to get involved with on campus, and I feel its very important to pick at least one and stick with it.  It could be used as an opportunity to continue with something already familiar, like orchestra in my case, or maybe intermural soccer, or a photography club. It could also be a chance to try something new, a previously unexplored activity, like joining the swing dancing club, or the Purdue Bells.

Doing engineering 24/7 no matter how much I like it would probably drive me insane. I was glad I was able to find an enjoyable pastime to distract me from the stress of my schoolwork and I would certainly recommend the strategy to any other future engineers.

Anne Roach’s Journey to a Co-Op

I knew that I wanted to be a chemical engineer in research and development since I was nine-years-old. That summer, my mother took me to Take Your Kids to Work Day at Proctor and Gamble, and seeing all of the amazing things that engineers could create to help other people, I realized that I wanted to be just like them. Over the years, that lead to WIEP summer camps and many hours of studying, but when I walked onto Purdue campus as a student for the first time, I knew that it was all going to be worth it. Purdue has given me many opportunities to get to know other women with my passions for helping others and creating new things. In the first semester of my freshman year, I joined the engineering sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. As I started exploring what I wanted to do during the summer after my freshman year, it came down to a big decision: Should I pursue an internship or a co-op? The difference between the two is that an internship is a commitment for only the summer, and a co-op is a commitment to work at the same company for three or five terms (3-5 months each). Internships give more flexibility in where you work, but co-ops give more work experience. Having an older brother who is a chemical engineering student in the co-op program, I was able to ask him about his work, what type of projects he does, and how valued he feels in his job. After a couple months of thinking about it, I decided to co-op, and it has been extremely rewarding even though I am only in my first term.

I now work for Mead Johnson Nutrition Company in Evansville, IN, in their Global Research and Development department. We make Enfamil and the Enfa-brand infant formula. My projects change people’s lives all over the world! I have worked with premature infant formula, which is fed to preterm babies in the hospital, and Nutramagen, a formula for children with special dietary needs. I have already had a business trip to Michigan in order to work with production there. I am a valued employee and am trusted with fairly large projects right out of freshman year in college. One thing that I have learned through this experience is to not be afraid to be wrong or to not understand. I am surrounded by accomplished scientists with their PhDs who are very well versed in the many facets of our products. The key is to not get intimidated. You do not need to know everything, but you do need to be willing to learn and ask many questions. It is better to say when you do not understand than to struggle and not ask for help from those who are willing to explain.

Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions! My address is

Researching at WMU

My name is Katherine Rothe, and I am a sophomore Computer Engineering Major at Purdue. This summer, I am working at Western Michigan University as a Research Assistant in the Speech Pathology Department. The great thing about being a programmer is that there are lots of available fields to work in. The project I am working on is looking at middle ear contractions as a reaction to loud noises. I am programming many facets of the project, from data acquisition to analysis to essentially a video game for distraction purposes. It’s a very educational experience, because I get to work with a new programming language (MATLAB) and learn about the biology behind the middle ear contractions. I also get to learn how to measure muscle reactions, and do otoscopy (looking in the ear).

The great thing about having a research internship, especially at a university, is that it opens a lot of doors. The main thing that I get out of this internship is great experience: I work with different types of equipment, programming languages, and am becoming adept at things employers value, like data analysis and research. I also have a good measure of autonomy on my projects, which means I am told what to do and have a degree of freedom for the tasks.

Overall, the internship has been really fun and educational. It opens a lot of doors, as well, primarily experience which is important to employers.

Why Should I Be Involved on Campus?

Brad IIE Blog

Being involved is an important and fun part of being a college student. When you’re applying to colleges, you always hear admissions counselors telling you to be a well-rounded student involved in extra-curricular activities and clubs because it looks better and shows that you can balance a busy schedule. While this is definitely true, I’ve come to realize that one of the reasons they encourage this has to do with something totally different. They’re pushing you to be prepared for college, where being involved on campus can truly mean success both in and outside of the class room.

During my 4 years here on Purdue’s campus, I’ve been involved in a number of student organizations. Most noticeably I’ve been a large part of both The Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) and Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. Both of these groups mix the professional aspects of a club as well as the social aspects and I’m going to talk a bit about both sides of any group you might join on campus.

Each semester, clubs will hold “call-outs,” which are usually short presentations showing what the club does on campus (and sometimes have free food!) In any given semester at Purdue, I’ve been invited to more club callouts than I can count, so it’s hard to know where to start. I simplified things by finding a handful of clubs that sounded interesting and made it a point to attend their call-outs. I remember walking into the IIE callout and instantly being excited by the number of people in the club that I already knew from my classes and major. I was nervous going into the first meeting as they started explaining all of the events I would be required to attend and wondering how I would handle it all, but luckily I didn’t try and walk out or give-up on the idea.

I spent the semester attending a plethora of events from Luncheons with the Faculty,  a career fair with 10 different companies, and one-on-one presentations from companies like Pepsico, FedEx, and Disney (yes Disney World!) These events were not only a great chance to network and gain experience talking to companies, and even getting to know some of my Professors in a more relaxed setting, but they also gave me the chance to make some great friends with the club members that I saw at every event.

It may not sound like much fun going to a ton of networking events but they actually did end up being a good time. On top of the networking events, IIE hosted even more fun social events throughout the semester! They had different fun things going on every couple of weeks throughout the semester which would range from things like going to a corn maze during the fall, renting out the Purdue Memorial Union bowling alley one night, or even sometimes just a get together at someone’s apartment where would all go and hang out to blow off some steam.

I think the biggest thing to be taken away from my experiences in IIE is that the true benefits of joining almost any group are usually intangible. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade anything for the great times I had nor do I under-appreciate all the help I’ve received in searching for internships and eventually full time jobs. However, the intangible benefit comes into effect when you walk into a class at the beginning of semester and you know over half of the people in it. From this first day, the opportunities for study sessions with friends, homework help, and once again just the opportunity to come together as a group and have fun becomes limitless.

I would encourage anyone reading this to really take the chance to become involved on campus at every turn in their college career. It can be tough and sometimes scary to attend callouts and try to impress the current club members enough into being invited to join. But the huge payout potential of putting yourself out there really is worth it! I always use the motto that “It doesn’t hurt to try something new at least once.” The worst that could happen is that you won’t enjoy it and you’ll move on, so go out there and get involved!

The Magic of Purdue

Let’s be honest guys: the weather right now is clearly not the greatest – at all. Currently, it is all of FIVE degrees Fahrenheit in West Lafayette. In Alaska, it’s more like 18 degrees. How about that? We are officially colder than Alaska. And then you factor in the wind chill and it’s pretty cold. But, even though it’s cold, and it has been cold on this campus for a pretty long time now, there’s something about this college, something warm, something that makes these cold days worthwhile.

Take it from someone who’s been here. I’ve watched this campus change over the course of twelve and a half years. That’s right, I’ve been coming to this campus for 12 and a half years; thankfully, only two and a half of them have been as a student myself. The rest are thanks to my brother. He also went to this school as a Mechanical Engineer, and then we just kept coming back to this wonderful place.

The surface of Purdue is wonderful to start with – just the physical look to the school. All of the buildings in some way incorporate brick into their design, and it’s amazing. The continuity of buildings, of every part of this campus, has not changed one bit since this school first opened in 1869. Let me say that again, in the almost 150 years Purdue has been, the campus remains one integrated campus – there is no “old” part nor a “new” part. This just adds to the History here. In every building you go into, there are things, reminders from times past right next to modern technology. Take the Mechanical Engineering building – there is a beautiful hand-wound clock, taller than me (and I’m 5’6″) which was lost in storage for at least 40 years. There are so many other little things like this at Purdue, pictures of graduating classes from the 20s, 30s, and 40s, in all of these wonderful buildings.

Buildings along don’t make a campus – it’s the people here too. I had some amazing friends in high school, several of whom I miss dearly. But here? I’ve got a family here, a group of people who enrich my life like never before. They have directly influenced my life in the best ways possible; if I didn’t know them, I’d feel that there was something lacking in my life. They’re the crazy kids who I want to work with, the ones I want to have at all the major moments in my life, the ones who I don’t know how to say good-bye for, even if it’s just a couple months.

The Magic of Purdue comes from all the quiet moments this campus has to offer. Staying up working on homework with friends, going down to the Landing for a night out, moving some weight in the CoRec, just taking in the campus during a walk to class, all of the simple moments we don’t think much of. They are the Magic of Purdue – and they are everywhere you look on this campus.  They are what makes this campus so worthwhile, despite the frigid winters. So come, find them when you visit, and imagine what it would be like to live for four years on this wonderful campus.