UT engineering program to offer college credit for high school students

Elizabeth Huang

The Engineer Your World program received $2 million in December to help transition the program to a dual enrollment course, meaning it will offer not only high school credit, but also UT credit.

The class was created by UT in 2008 as a response to the National Science Foundation’s challenge to design an engineering program for high school students, said Cheryl Farmer, the project director for Engineer Your World. 

“It used to be that students first learned about engineering in college, but today more and more students are taking engineering courses in high school,” Farmer said. “It’s important that we do it right.”

Farmer said the goal for the program is for students to figure out if they’re interested in engineering and want to pursue it as a career.

“We think this is really valuable because they can make an informed decision about what major to pursue in college and to pursue a particular type of engineering,” Farmer said. “We can help them avoid the mistake of wasting time in the wrong major.”

The program’s curriculum consists of four six to nine week-long modules that explore different types of engineering. At the end of the course, students put together a portfolio of their projects, which is then graded by UT faculty members. The modules help students get into the engineering mindset and learn how to work with others, mechanical engineering professor Richard Crawford said. 

“A key aspect to the projects is the engineering design and how engineers approach problems,” Crawford said. “The students often work in teams to complete the projects. Teamwork is actually something that people often overlook.”

Farmer said Engineer Your World is different from other engineering programs because of its structure. Instead of teaching students skills first and then application, students are given a real world problem and develop the skills they need by working through it.

Natalie Wyll, an engineering teacher at Westlake High School in Austin, said her students worked on a project in which they had to design a more stable and safer house for people in earthquake-prone areas.

“The project focuses on the problem-solving process: how to attack a multi-faceted problem, break it down into segments, how to analyze it and come up with a solution,” Wyll said. “That is a skill that I feel like is applicable to any degree or job.”