Portland Community College and Intel Corp. have joined forces to give students at-risk of leaving their engineering fields of study an experience they won’t forget.
PCC is hosting the new Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience on its Rock Creek Campus, 17705 N.W. Springville Road. The six-week program kicked off on July 15 and runs through Aug. 22. It teaches the students about app development, robotics and how to act like entrepreneurs. About 120 first- and second-year engineering, science, math and technology students are getting hands-on engineering workshops that connect to real world jobs. This demographic is most likely to drop out of STEM programs and not pursue related fields, which can then drain the worker pool for companies like Intel. Throughout the six weeks of workshops and coursework, the students receive mentoring from Intel engineers and PCC faculty. On top of that, PCC’s faculty can connect with the company and learn current industry practices.
“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, chair of PCC’s Microelectronics Program. “It is an ideal summer program for anybody that is interested in solidifying valuable technical skills. I am inspired by what I see happening in the informal yet very effective teaching-learning environment of the camp. I see myself already embedding in my engineering classes many of the topics discussed.”
Most of the students, who range in age between 18 and 50 years old, are from PCC’s computer science, engineering and microelectronics programs, but there are also students from Oregon State University, University of Portland, Portland State as well as Sunset, Aloha, Westview, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Sherwood high schools, to name a few. 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.
Erica Lipski, 18, is an incoming PCC student from Sunset High School in Beaverton who counts herself as one of those excited students. Lipski is in that demographic that Intel wants to encourage to keep going with STEM-focused studies. She is testing the waters of various engineering fields and her interests rest in robotics. When she was in the seventh grade she was on the first all-girl team that won Intel’s state robotics championship and advanced to the world competition.
“It’s giving me a broad spectrum of what to expect for the different fields that I want to pursue,” Lipski said. “I want to pursue robotics, but these past two weeks when we did programming; it’s gotten me into gaming.”
According to Intel, 40 percent of U.S. students 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 U.S. The Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience is part of the company’s expanded engineering internship program to reach that 40 percent before they decide to leave the engineering field of study.
“That’s the biggest value,” said 40-year-old Jeff Patterson, a second-year computer science major at the Sylvania Campus. “(The Experience) gives you skills and a metric to decide what to work on and see where you are in the process. It’s giving me a focus, a boost and a lot of different perspectives.”
PCC’s partnering with Intel is nothing new. The two have a longstanding partnership that has developed the college’s Microelectronics Technology Program, which was born 20 years ago out of Intel’s need for highly trained manufacturing technicians that could be educated and hired locally. To date, hundreds of PCC graduates, produced by many of the college’s technical programs, are filling that need for Intel.