High School Students “Discover Engineering” at USC Viterbi

| September 8, 2022

The four-week pre-college program gives high school students the opportunity to explore the different sectors of engineering through project-based and cooperative learning

Students at Discover Engineering (Photo/Courtesy USC Viterbi)

Students at Discover Engineering (Photo/Courtesy USC Viterbi)

Drawn to engineering due to his father’s technical background, Yagiz Ozenci was able to narrow down his engineering interests this summer.  A 16-year-old international student from Dubai International Academy who participated in USC Viterbi’s Discover Engineering program this summer, Ozenci learned that mechanical and industrial engineering most suit his interests. He also said he began to develop the critical thinking skills of an engineer.

 “I really found that the program taught me how to think like an engineer,” said Ozenci. 

The four-week, three-credit program introduces students to different types of engineering in a project-based, college-level format. Through group projects, such as building a bridge and a Styrofoam capacitor plane, the students are given a peek into what it means to study the specific areas of engineering: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer science, electrical, mechanical, industrial, and environmental. 

A group of the Discover Engineering students. Photo/Courtesy Yagiz Ozenci

A group of the Discover Engineering students. Photo/Courtesy Yagiz Ozenci

The high schoolers, who must apply for admission, also get a taste of what college looks like. They spend one month on the USC College Park campus where they have the option to stay in the dorms. They also receive guidance from USC students, both graduate and undergraduate, who serve as teaching assistants 

“The goal of the program is for students to get a perspective on engineering by doing engineering work [and] understanding what it’s like to be an engineering student by doing school coursework and doing research,” said Darin Gray, the creator and director of Discover Engineering. “The idea is for them to get a sense of working in teams and building projects based on real-world projects that Viterbi faculty are actually engaged in.”

Each year, about six to eight Discover Engineering alumni enroll as USC Viterbi students, according to Gray. 

Discover Engineering students are taught the value of self-proficiency, Gray added, as they are given the project and then figure out the next steps with their teammates. Without consistent cooperation, communication, and compromise, the projects cannot be completed successfully. To finish each assignment, the teams must negotiate with one another and learn how to collaborate, even if their ideas or designs differ.

“This program has taught me how to work in a team better than I thought I could have. Our group of four took on all the projects each week and created a website portfolio [in early July] detailing everything we learned and did over the course of our four weeks together,” said Sierra Wouden-Crosno, a 16-year-old Discover Engineering camper and rising senior at Carmel High School in California. “Without teamwork, our team would not have been able to complete our projects together or finish our assignments.”

In the program, students are taught the IEEE, or Institute of Electrical and Electronics, research paper format, giving them another leg up in their future engineering courses, Gray said. Discover Engineering additionally gives students a look into all of the resources USC Viterbi School of Engineering has to offer, such as the labs and instruction from professors conducting research while awarding them three college credits. 

“I understand that Viterbi has the facilities and capabilities to support innovative engineering studies,” said Ozenci. “I also see the success that USC alumni were able to achieve, which also makes me understand the value of a Viterbi education.”

One of the biggest benefits of Discover Engineering is that it helps students narrow down their areas of interest through hands-on learning. For example, in the first week of the program, students create a robot meant to save people from damaged buildings in an earthquake. 

“[Discover Engineering] helped me figure out that I wanted to go into mechanical engineering because that was the most hands-on project we did throughout the program,” said camper Avantika Saxena, a 16-year-old rising junior who attends Moreau Catholic High School in the Bay Area. 

“These are high school students from around the world who are interested in engineering and they want to learn about it by actually doing projects and not just reading about it,” Gray said.

Published on September 8th, 2022

Last updated on September 8th, 2022

Share this Story