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Mission College Hosts SCUSD Latinx Students at Virtual Engineering Camp

A joint effort by Mission College and California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) has offered Latinx students in Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) a better understanding of the engineering. Fifteen students from SCUSD joined 15 students from San Jose’s East Side Union High School District for the week long virtual camp.

“The students are being introduced to not only what engineering is, in terms of the overall idea that engineering is all about problem solving…but they’re also being introduced to the different types of engineering,” said Dr. Fadi Castronovo, the Director of the STEM Educational Gaming Research Group at CSUEB who guides the virtual camp. “Understanding that engineering is such a broad concept, that they can actually apply so [much] of the knowledge or their interests and their passions to many different avenues or disciplines within engineering.”

Mario Flores is the program’s coordinator at Mission College. Flores says many of the students are first generation from a low socioeconomic status. He says it’s important to work with them to help the Latinx community and diversify the field of STEM.

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“This program is really to expose our students, to expand their horizons to introduce them to new and relevant careers that will not only benefit them, but the whole Latinx community in general,” said Flores. “Dr. Castronovo makes this curriculum very culturally relevant, really engaging, really fun. So, the students are not only learning, but at the same time, they’re having fun. He’s really putting in a seed into their mind, not only for college bound, but hopefully some type of STEM pathway.”

Students in the program say they’ve learned a lot.

“I thought that engineering was just building stuff out of metal and stuff like that, but I realized that a lot more than that,” said Santa Clara High School student Carlos Rodriguez. “[This course has] given me an option to do in the future.”

“I wasn’t really into engineering. I just like saw this the program and it actually interested me more. What I’m learning right now — the creativity with the 3D modeling and different types ways of just doing the work — it’s really interesting to do it,” said Miguel Moreno, a student at Santa Teresa High School.

“You’re introducing more positions in Engineering than just one,” said Jade Rosales, a student at Santa Clara High School. “Before I thought engineering was just working with like mechanics and all that. When I found out that there’s biomedical engineering, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, more in the medical field.’ since I originally wanted to be an anesthesiologist.”

The course was originally designed to take place at CSUEB with the students living in the dormitories for a week and eating at the school cafeteria. The emergence of COVID-19 forced organizers to turn it into a virtual event and Mission College made every effort to make sure students were still able to participate. All of the attendees were supplied virtual reality headsets to help facilitate their learning.

“I think the VR and the AR is really interesting. It’s really cool,” said Moreno. “I mean, I was playing with my little cousins later on yesterday. I was showing them and they were like, so fascinated with it.”

This is the first year this program was provided to students in SCUSD, but Flores and Castronovo both hope it will not be the last.

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