Area high school teachers operate a human-powered vehicle in ARROWS' Mechanical Engineering module.

Pointed in the right direction

ARROWS introduces high school students to college life

As a high school junior, Gabriel Soberanis did not quite know what to expect his first year of college. However, thanks to a UMKC summer program called ARROWS, Soberanis gained first-hand insight into college life and possible majors. Today, he is a sophomore computer science major in the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering (SCE).

"The high school that I went to was really small, so attending ARROWS gave me the confidence that I needed to go to college," Soberanis said. "It gave me an idea of what it's like to actually be seated in a college-level class. ARROWS is a very useful program if you are the kind of student who wants to go to college but is not sure what you want to study."

ARROWS – which stands for Achieving Recruitment, Retention and Outreach with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) – is a five-year program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Its goal is to increase the number and diversity of students studying in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines at UMKC or at other universities.

In the program's summer 2009 session, 39 high school students and eight teachers from the Kansas City region convened at SCE's Robert A. Flarsheim Hall. Throughout the week-long program, students and teachers rotated through four hands-on learning modules – each related to a STEM discipline.

The Civil Engineering module featured earthquake simulations; the Electrical and Computer Engineering module featured biometrics; the Computer Science module featured multimedia Web design; and the Mechanical Engineering module featured biomechanics and a human-powered vehicle.

"The students are learning what an engineer or computer scientist does," said Mark Hieber, assistant teaching professor in the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering. "Many of them have no idea what engineers and computer scientists do, and these modules capture students' interest."

In the afternoon, students conducted experiments. They built popsicle stick bridges, straw towers and competed in an egg-drop competition.

While the students conducted experiments, the teachers worked on curriculum development with Dr. Donna Russell from the School of Education.

Karen Rogers, an area high school teacher and past ARROWS participant, found the program invaluable.

"Most of the teaching workshops I attend involve teachers teaching teachers," Rogers said. "But at ARROWS, teachers, students and parents worked together to make new connections between like-minded people from the community, secondary schools and university."

Posted: July 13, 2009

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"...Attending ARROWS gave me the confidence that I needed to go to college."

Gabriel Soberanis
Sophomore Computer Science major


Mark Hieber, assistant teaching professor in the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering helps ARROWS participants test the strength of a popsicle stick bridge.