To explore engineering careers and opportunities, Spring Branch ISD high school students visited Texas A&M University’s Zachry Engineering Education Complex on Thursday, Nov. 3.
Students began with a tour of the newly built center, learning about its features, including its learning studios, interdisciplinary laboratories and study spaces. They even saw former NASA director Gerald D. “Gerry” Griffin’s Aggie ring, which traveled to the moon on Apollo 12.
“This field trip helped students explore their interests and opportunities to pursue engineering,” said Beverly Martin, Coordinator of Guidance and Counseling at SBISD. “Some may not have plans in place for their future. But, experiences like these open a world of possibilities and give them a pathway to achieve their goals.”
The group also heard from Shelly Tornquist, director of Spark! PK-12 Engineering and Education Outreach at Texas A&M and a Northbrook High School alumna. Tornquist welcomed the students with a Howdy, shared her career path and provided an overview of the engineering classes at Texas A&M and potential careers.
They also learned about Texas A&M’s Engineering Academy program, one of the first transition programs of its kind. Students are co-enrolled at Texas A&M and a partner community college, like Houston Community College-Spring Branch Campus (HCC). Students complete core curriculum courses through the community college while taking engineering courses from Texas A&M faculty. Then, after one or two years, the students transition to Texas A&M to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Texas A&M engineering students were eager to share how the program had benefited them. By beginning their college career at a community college, students can save up to $40,000, while still being part of the Texas A&M College of Engineering, which is ranked number eight in the nation for the best public engineering schools. The university offers more than 20 engineering programs, including aerospace, electrical, interdisciplinary, biomedical, nuclear and more.
“I was part of the academy at HCC-Spring Branch and it was one of the best things I have done!” said Angela, a current Texas A&M engineering student. “I saved money during the two years I was completing my basic courses, while still taking courses taught by Texas A&M engineering professors. I am now using the money I saved to pay for the rest of my education.”
Students attending HCC-Spring Branch are also mentored by Chevron engineers and have an opportunity to dive further into real-world experiences. They have access to all facilities at Texas A&M and HCC-Spring Branch (or the community college of their choice).
“This is a defining moment for students, as they are exploring their interests and making decisions about their future careers,” said Kathryn Suerth, Stratford High counselor. “Learning about the different programs available allows them to make informed choices and find the best fit for them.”
The field trip concluded with lunch at Duncan Hall, where students debriefed all they had learned and made plans for their future.
“I took an engineering class, but I was not very interested in pursuing it in college,” said Zoe, a junior at Northbrook High. “However, this field trip changed my mind! The programs seem very interesting and attainable. I am excited to look further into this career path.”
The field trip was sponsored by a grant from CITGO Petroleum Corporation to the Spring Branch Education Foundation in support of STEM initiatives for students. Experiences like this promote SBISD’s T-2-4 vision, where every graduate attains a technical certificate, military training, or a two-year or four-year degree.
“I will be considering this program and the university! I liked the facility, the labs and the variety of program options,” said Natalie, a junior at Spring Woods High. “The co-enrollment program is also very interesting because it allows me to transition smoothly to college, as I would be staying in Houston. I’m thrilled to do some research and potentially apply.”
Students and their families can start planning for next school year by visiting, downloading, and reviewing SBISD Middle and High School Course Catalogs. Both are now online at the district website. Course Catalogs provide important information on SBISD academic programming, graduation requirements and course offerings.
For more information, visit the Texas A&M Engineering Academy program site or contact your campus counselor.
View the full album of the field trip!