Colombian high school students spending time on Purdue campus

July 23, 2014  

columbian students

Tania Londoño (right) tests the consistency of her cement mix with lab partners Camilo Vivares (center) and Laura Hernández in the Pankow Materials Lab in Hampton Hall of Civil Engineering on July 20, 2014. The three are among 14 Colombian high school students on Purdue’s campus for a summer camp. (By Mark Simons, Purdue University)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —Fourteen high school students from Colombia have been studying at Purdue University this month through the efforts of a Colombia-Purdue partnership and a Purdue summer program for gifted students.

The students originally were among a group of 37 who participated in an after-school engineering program created through a collaboration among Purdue, the Biblioteca España in Medellin, Ruta N innovation center, Universidad de Antioquia, EAFIT, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, and Colombia’s Ministerio de Educación Nacional.

Carol Handwerker, the Reinhardt Schuhmann Jr. Professor of Materials Engineering at Purdue, ran the program, Project Interchange, through the Colombia-Purdue Initiative (CPI).

Members of Purdue’s Colombia Student Association (CSAP), who are undergraduate and graduate students studying at Purdue through CPI, played key roles in Project Interchange, serving as teachers, mentors and role models. Through Project Interchange, students from the Medellin neighborhood of Santo Domingo Savio learned about nanotechnology, advanced engineering, and agriculture, including plant genetics and entomology.

Meanwhile, Maryann Santos de Barona, dean of the Purdue College of Education, and Marcia Gentry, director of the college’s Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI), had been considering ways to expand the college’s work with Colombian students.

Last October, Handwerker, Gentry and Alejandro Roldán of Ruta N came up with the idea of bringing some of Project Interchange’s Colombian high school students to Purdue for one of GERI’s summer camps. 

The students arrived July 11. They live in Earhart Hall with other GERI campers and participate in GERI classes in the afternoons. In the mornings, they take classes covering a wide variety of engineering-related topics.

Helping the students adapt, integrate and learn are CSAP students, GERI counselors and Purdue faculty and staff who participate in CPI.

The CSAP members created GERI content in Spanish for the students, which can be used in the future to help recruit more Latin American students to GERI. 

The high school students will return home Sunday (July 27).

A landmark 2010 agreement between the Colombian government and Purdue University formed the foundation for CPI. That agreement initiated a series of partnerships between Purdue and institutions in Colombia, including universities, companies, government ministries and nongovernmental organizations.

GERI provides enrichment programs for gifted, creative and talented youth; graduate programs for future scholars and leaders; professional development and coursework for educators of gifted, creative and talented students; and research in psychology and education related to giftedness, creativity and talent development.

This summer, about 460 fifth- through 12th -graders are participating in GERI summer camps. They are from five countries and 25 states. 

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, 

Sources: Carol Handwerker, 765-494-0147,

Marcia Gentry, 765-496-3721,

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