Seeing Innovation in Their Eyes: KUEST to Engineering

November 06, 2018 - By Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.

KUEST students group photo

“I want you to now design an app that will meet the community needs you identified.” When I shared that to the group of around 160 ninth graders from Kansas City Kansas Schlagle High School, I could see it in their eyes. “You want ME, to design this app?” The boys and girls began to straighten up in their chairs. The looks in their eyes had looks of expectation and curiosity. I wondered how many of them pictured themselves as creators of technology before I gave them the opportunity to do so in a low-fidelity app prototype design exercise.

KUEST Student receives award

Our KUEST program (KU Engineering, Science, and Technology, pronounced “quest”), is designed to give students from low-income, first-generation, and minority students from middle school to high school, the opportunity to learn how to be engineering and computing creators.

Robot entertains KUEST students

For a majority of these high school first-year students, they had never visited the University of Kansas School of Engineering. And many of them still have a difficult time envisioning themselves as college students. We had KU engineering and computing students, most of them from low-income, first-generation, and minority families themselves, spoke with them about why and how they went to college in spite of the challenges they had to overcome to get to KU. The Schlagle ninth graders also learned about how fun it was to be in college at the University of Kansas.

IHAWKe student panel

We are excited and grateful to the industry, such as Halliburton and ExxonMobil, and other alumni donor support that we receive to be able to have programs to introduce and engage these students in engineering. To see “engineering innovation in their eyes” for the first time with the hope that soon they will be at KU studying engineering makes it all worthwhile.