FDU creates pathways for high school students to excel in STEM majors

By Madinah Muhammad

September 18, 2017 — A lawyer. That's what Giselle Pena, a graduate of Union City High School, imagined herself becoming as she thought about her future career and college choice. But when Pena participated in the Technical Enrichment and Outreach Program (TEOP) - offered by Fairleigh Dickinson University's Gildart Haase School of Computer Sciences and Engineering - during her freshman year of high school, she found she loved civil engineering. She soon realized it could be a career path that combines her passion for math and public speaking.

With this newly ignited interest, Pena started taking classes in architecture and civil engineering at her high school. "It is because of TEOP that I knew I wanted to go to a university that specializes in engineering and research, and that allowed my public speaking skills to flourish," says Pena.

Above: Pena constructing her bridge during the TEOP bridge competition. (Photo by Abdul Alsaidi)

TEOP introduces participants to different branches of engineering every week, from aeronautical to mechanical. During civil engineering week, Pena showcased her interest in working with her hands by building one of the strongest bridges for the bridge competition, ultimately winning the bronze medal. "From that day forward I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer," says Pena.

Above: Pena receiving a prize from Melvin Lewis, senior lecturer of engineering technology at FDU, for building one of the strongest bridges in the competition. (Photo by Abdul Alsaidi)

Four years later, her TEOP experience led her to college. Her interest in civil engineering motivated Pena to apply to Columbia University - she was accepted and just started her first semester this fall. "TEOP is the stepping stone that lead me to what I love," says Pena.

TEOP promotes computer science, engineering, mathematics and engineering technology to public high schools with large populations of under-represented minority and/or financially disadvantaged students. Students attend introductory engineering lectures and take part in guided, hands-on, technology-centric projects, and computer activities for 10 Saturdays per semester at the Gildart Haase School of Computer Sciences and Engineering at FDU's Metropolitan Campus.