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GEAR UP Achievers Hosts First On-Campus Program

Photo: Naomi Ishisaka

During the first week of August, 56 rising seventh and eighth grade students from South King County spent a few days living in the residence halls on the University of Washington campus and learning about engineering and mathematics.

But it wasn’t just your average summer camp.

These students were a part of the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity’s new GEAR UP Achievers partnership, a seven-year grant holding its first-ever on-campus summer program since receiving its funding last October.

This Early Engineering Institute (EEI) was hosted in partnership with the UW College of Engineering. During the institute, low-income and first-generation students from Renton, Tukwila, and Auburn School Districts had the opportunity to engage in a variety of STEM-focused activities, as well as connect with current UW engineering students from similar backgrounds.

Photo: Naomi Ishisaka

“This was our first immersive, on-campus program for the UW GEAR UP Achievers program,” said Director Roslyn Kagy. “It was a great example of collaboration between the College of Engineering and the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, and special to see all hands on deck. All of our staff members were present and engaged with the students in the residence halls, at meal times and in the classrooms. It was great to witness the potential impact this program will have on students, as well as see them so inspired and excited.”

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is part of a national effort to help students from low-income families prepare for and succeed in higher education. It begins serving students at the sixth or seventh grade level and follows them through their first year of college.

OMA&D is deepening its college access work in South King County with the addition of GEAR UP Achievers, which serves over 4,300 students in the Renton, Kent, Auburn and Tukwila school districts. Its focus is to strengthen college pathways in STEM. OMA&D also has a GEAR UP grant (RISE UP/SKY GEAR UP) that works with school districts and partners in the Yakima and Skagit Valleys.

Among the activities that took place during The Early Engineering Institute was a collaboration with the McCarty Innovation and Learning Lab (The MILL). For two days, students worked in small groups to build “gravity cars,” which they adapted after collecting data from various testing.

Photo: Naomi Ishisaka

UW engineering undergraduate students Kyle Johnson and Vicente Arroyos worked with students on a “Ball-Drop” activity during which they learned how to program a sensor to measure pressure and download data to calculate altitude. Students also had the opportunity to experience life as a college student: living in the dorms for four days and three nights, eating in the dining halls and accessing many of the on-campus resources at the UW.

The institute culminated with a Closing Lunch at the Husky Union Building Lyceum that was attended by over 100 family members and UW staff and students. During the lunch, students gave PowerPoint presentations on their week of learning.

GEAR UP Site Coordinator Jennifer Young, who works at Olympic Middle School in Auburn School District, said that since the Early Engineering Institute took place “I’ve seen a noticeable difference in the confidence and excitement of the students who attended. They proudly wear their t-shirts and share about their experience at camp.”

Photo: Naomi Ishisaka