PCC summer campers learn engineering skills for real-life jobs

It’s not just kids who get excited about the prospect of flying robots.

About 120 first- and second-year engineering, science, math and technology students are getting hands-on engineering workshops this summer that connect to real world jobs at the Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience hosted by Portland Community College on its Rock Creek campus.

The six-week program runs through Aug. 22 and covers app development, robotics and how to act like entrepreneurs.

Students, who range in age between 18 and 50 years old, are from PCC’s computer science, engineering and microelectronics programs, as well as from Oregon State University, University of Portland, Portland State and Sunset, Aloha, Westview, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Sherwood high schools.

Cynthia Del Frate, senior program manager for Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience, said the camp is designed to give students real-world scenarios and keep them interested in engineering as a career. “We’re trying to encourage more students to stay” in engineering studies, Del Frate said. Intel engineers teach the workshops and act as mentors.

Statistics show that up to 40 percent of students nationwide leave engineering or change majors after the first year of college. A shortage of engineers hinders innovation and competitiveness in the global economy and threatens the ability to create and keep high-tech jobs in the United States.

The Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience is part of the company’s expanded engineering internship program to reach that “at-risk” demographic before they decide to leave the engineering field of study.

This is the first year the program has been offered at the Rock Creek campus.

“Having the camp hosted by the Rock Creek campus goes hand in hand with the practices of the long-lasting partnership that exists between the college and Intel,” said Dorina Cornea-Hasegan, chairwoman of PCC’s microelectronics program. “It is an ideal summer program for anybody that is interested in solidifying valuable technical skills.”

Intel is also hosting camps in Chandler, Ariz., and at California State University’s Sacramento campus.

“The partnership between PCC and Intel is well known as being solid and of a long duration,” Cornea-Hasegan said. Both have a keen interest in training workers to fill the jobs at Intel and other nearby companies.

That’s part of the reason Alexander Schultz of Hillsboro is attending the camp. Schultz, 20, is in the microelectronics program at PCC. He sees the engineering and electronics field as great job potential down the road. “We’re exposed to the real world, real engineers,” Schultz said.

Erica Lipski, 18, an incoming PCC student from Sunset High School, is also in that demographic that Intel wants to encourage to keep going with STEM-focused studies.

“It’s giving me a broad spectrum of what to expect for the different fields that I want to pursue,” Lipski said.

The camp’s first two weeks covered HTML 5 programming and at the end of the second week the students presented apps to the group about healthy eating.

“Although most students arrived with virtually zero programming experience, they were so excited to see their creations zooming around on their screens that many reported working non-stop until sunrise,” said Gregg Meyer, a PCC civil and mechanical engineering instructor.

Christian Lee, a Century High School graduate, is about to enter her second year in PCC’s microelectronics program. She said the camp has given her new experiences in writing code and learning about other career opportunities. “There are so many things you can do,” she said.

This week students programmed flying robots using “Arduino” software. “It’s challenging, but also fun to see the results,” Lee said.

“It never gets boring,” she said. “Technology is always changing.”

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