The 16-year-olds placed water bottles in a basket that would test how much of a load their bridge could bear. It held nearly half a pound before littering a small stage with noodles.
Huerta, Estevan Gutierrez and Manuel Vega — known collectively as Impasta — prevailed in Friday’s contest among 17 teams of students who took part in the culmination of the university’s Engineering Innovations Summer Bridge Program at CSU Channel Islands.
The program — an effort of the university, the high school and Oxnard Union High School District that’s funded by grants from the Harriet H. Samuelsson Foundation and Bank of America — aims to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More than 50 students Hueneme High spent four weeks in the program at the Camarillo university, which also is designed to motivate them to go to college.
Gutierrez said has long thought of becoming an engineer, and the program cemented that thought into a plan.
“I’ve lived a little bit of the university life and culture and have learned how focused you have to be to succeed,” he said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much through this hands-on way of learning.”
Greg Wood, CSUCI associate professor of physics, led the students on the intensive course in physics.
“I really hope the students are more comfortable coming to Channel Islands University and see themselves being successful at a four-year college or university,” Wood said. “I hope they see there are so many careers out there in the science and engineering fields.”
Robert Kadin, who teaches at Hueneme High, said he hopes the Summer Bridge program will inspire students to become engineers.
“The entire country, especially right over here at the Navy base, is hurting for engineers,” he said. “We have a lot of people retiring, and a lot of kids who love it but just need something to guide them.”
Hueneme Principal Gary Mayeda said the program brings book learning and formal instruction into something concrete.
“That is what the crux of what engineering is,” he said. “You have an idea, you look at it, you see where it fails, you see where the problem is, you fix it and test it again until it works right.”
Students worked on their bridges for several days, met with professional engineers, visited museums and universities, and even went behind the scenes at Disney’s California Adventure to see the real-world application of what they had learned in class.
Elizabeth Hartung, assistant provost at CSUCI, urged the students to “keep building bridges, writing code and working on problems that make your brains hurt but that feel so good when you get it right.”