July 18, 2013

Twenty-eight high school juniors and seniors from across the country experienced first-hand the activities and thought characteristics of engineers and scientists at REHAMS, a pre-college summer workshop hosted by the LSU College of Engineering (CoE) Office for Diversity Programs.

Recruiting into Engineering High Ability Multi-Cultural Students (REHAMS) gives multi-cultural students an opportunity to explore the various disciplines offered by the CoE, including biological, chemical, petroleum, industrial, civil, electrical and computer engineering, computer science and construction management.

Throughout the week-long program, students interacted with LSU faculty, staff and both current and former students while participating in activities that required creative problem solving using basic engineering design principles. They also experienced a glimpse of college life as they resided on campus during the program.

“The most valuable part was seeing how hard works pays off,” said George Tullock-Harris, an 11th grade student from Chicago, Ill. “No matter how big of a challenge the students and professors knew engineering was going to be, they all went the extra mile and succeeded. Everyone has a passion for what they’re doing. Throughout the program, they sugar-coated nothing, and I liked that. They made sure I knew everything about engineering, even the things I thought I wouldn't need to know. Overall, it was fantastic.”

One of the projects required participants to design and construct a Rube Goldberg machine that used the reaction between Mentos and Diet Coke as propulsion. Students were allotted 10 hours in the schedule to work on their projects, but many dedicated several hours of their free time to completing their machines.

Students also went on a facility tour at the Shell Geismar plant. They visited the chemical plant, which is different from a refinery in that it does not produce oil or gas. While on the tour, participants spoke with a panel of Shell employees asking questions and interacting with them. Riding a charter bus with Shell employees also allowed them to network informally with industry professionals.

Throughout the week, industry professionals gave presentations to the participants about industry standards and other topics such as résumés and how to represent one’s professional self, professional dress and goal setting and making plans to achieve those goals. They learned about non-technical soft skills needed to be an ideal CoE student and future engineer, computer scientist or construction manager. Almost all of the guest speakers were CoE alumni, and a few are members of the CoE Diversity Advisory Board.

“As a woman majoring in computer science, I see a huge disparity between the number of men and women in programming and in engineering as a whole,” said Alexandra Willis, computer science student at LSU. “I decided to work for REHAMS because it gave me the opportunity to actually help solve this issue hands-on instead of just wishing it would solve itself. I wanted the students to be inspired to pursue engineering, but most importantly, I hope they leave the camp feeling unafraid to break the status quo.”

The first REHAMS program was held at LSU in 1977, and it was one of the first programs in the country to target minorities and recruit and retain them in STEM disciplines. Since then, REHAMS has provided pre-college students an opportunity to explore CoE disciplines through a holistic overview of the field by presenting both the academic structure and career possibilities. 

“REHAMS offers students hands-on exposure to various engineering and computer science disciplines that are available at LSU,” said Joy Antoine, an 11th grade student from Baton Rouge, La. “The opportunity to meet like-minded, high-achieving students with similar goals is why I was so ecstatic to return for a second year. I was totally emerged into the life of an LSU engineering student. The encouragement and support I received from the mentors and counselors strengthened my determination and resolve to become a Tiger in the summer of 2014.”    

REHAMS is sponsored by Shell, Fluor, Dow Chemical Company and ExxonMobil.

To learn more about REHAMS, click here.

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Article written by Elise Bernard, communications intern. For more information, contact Mimi LaValle, College of Engineering, mlavall@lsu.edu or (225) 578-5706. 



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