Santiago Ibarra Rico


B.S. Aeronautical Engineering '15
Tell me a little bit more about the MEP summer programs.

Both SEW and PREFACE 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.

MITE and ABC are different from SEW and PREFACE in that they target upperclassmen in high school. MITE helps prepare students for the SAT and also begins to show them the type of materials 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 was your role with the MEP summer programs?

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 on Mars.

For MITE and ABC, I served as a tutor 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 was your favorite part of the MEP summer programs?

I truly enjoyed working with and getting to know the students that I interacted with because it wasn't too long ago that I was in the same position 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, 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 with the MEP summer programs?

I first learned about the summer programs from my mentor, Dr. Cinthia Sanchez, 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.

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 the results of these programs, I would highly recommend them to any student that is interested in learning more about engineering.

Would you recommend the MEP summer programs?

Yes. I would highly recommend these programs to any and all students. Especially incoming students (ABC), because it gives them a perspective that not all other incoming students are able to obtain. For ABC students, it allows them to meet and befriend other students that they will be working with throughout the academic year.

How has MEP 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 Ph.D.

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. Anyone on the staff will do whatever they can to help you succeed and reach any goal that you set for yourself. 

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