July 18, 2009

LSU's College of Engineering Office for Diversity Programs held its second annual eXploration Camp Inspiring Tomorrow's Engineers (XCITE) from July 6-17, 2009. XCITE, sponsored by Marathon Oil Corporation and Fluor Corporation, featured a residential program for high school girls who will be entering the ninth and tenth grades. These students were introduced to the various types of engineering through engineering curriculum, hands-on activities, engineering design projects, while professional engineers shared their work environments. XCITE toured several industrial sites to learn about chemical and oil production and worked in groups to solve problems and discover engineering opportunities.

Each weekday, from 8 am to 9:30 pm, the campers attended classes, participated in experiments, worked on individual and team/group projects, and heard informative, motivational talks by guest speakers, faculty, staff and students.

Industry activities included field trips to get a firsthand look of engineers at work in various fields, including visits to the:

  • Marathon Oil Company Refinery in Garyville, Louisiana
  • Occidental Chemical Corporation in Geismar, Louisiana
  • "Behind the Scenes Tour of the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas" in New Orleans

The high school female students also participated in communication, teamwork and leadership building skills by completing the LSU Challenge Course at the University Recreational Center. In addition, these students completed ACT Prep and Computer-Aided Drafting courses lead by LSU engineering doctoral students.

Engaging female high school students to engineering during the summer is challenging, but comments from XCITE participants confirm that the camps are exciting and making a difference.

Natasha Rankins, a freshman attending Jehovah-Jireh Christian Academy in Baton Rouge, was enthusiastic about her camp experience. "XCITE has by far been the most extraordinary, educational, and XCITEing program that I have ever attended," said Natasha. "It has helped me choose my career. As a result, I plan to pursue a career in biological engineering, and then go off to veterinary school. I just would like to say that XCITE is the best!"

Sharon Lagos, XCITE tenth grade participant from West Jefferson High School in Harveyn LA, added "Coming into this program I never knew what to expect, considering that this is my first time coming to a camp. I honestly thought that this was going to be like one of those boot camps, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. Over the past two weeks, I've learned the importance of engineering, and what engineering truly is. This program has helped me expand my choices, and actually consider engineering as one of my career options!"

Parents of participating students were equally impressed with the program's impact on their children. Monita Overstreet, mother of XCITE participant Meaghan Overstreet, said, "Thank you for hosting such a wonderful event. My daughter has learned so much and you all did such a great job. She wants to come back next year!"

Charisma Edwards, ACT Prep Instructor for XCITE and PhD candidate in the LSU electrical engineering department, credits the program with helping set a great example of how engineering truly benefits society and the importance of recruiting females and minorities early into engineering. "Ms. Vaneshette Henderson and staff did a great job planning XCITE," said Edwards. "The camp schedule gave the participants a taste of college life and majoring in engineering at LSU. I was fortunate to be introduced to engineering at a young age, but many girls are never introduced to the possibility of being an engineer and their value to society. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the participants' experience!"

The Office for Diversity Programs initiatives focus on the recruitment and retention of female and minority students to thereby improve overall enrollment and graduation rates, and enhance diversity both within the College of Engineering and the workforce. The goal of the Office for Diversity Programs is "to enhance the academic environment for talented female and minority students and to increase the visibility of highly qualified women and minorities in all sectors of engineering."



Article by Vaneshette Henderson, LSU CoE Diversity Programs K-12 Education and Outreach Coordinator, 225-578-6004, vhende1@lsu.edu, and Akilah Taylor, LSU CoE Diversity Programs Faculty Coordinator, Office of Development, 225-578-009, ataylor1@lsu.edu


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