CPP and Diamond Bar High school participants
CPP Magazine

Polytechnic Bootcamp

STEAM Academy Prepares Young Minds for Higher Education

By Chris Park

This summer it was full STEAM ahead for an innovative pilot program that teaches high school students technology skills through team-based, hands-on learning and online courses.

The Polytechnic STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Academy also connected the students with their peers across communities and institutions, giving them opportunities to collaborate with Cal Poly Pomona and industry partners.

Fourteen students from Diamond Bar High School were recruited for the 36-week program that started on campus this summer with a six-week “Engineering Design” module focused on machine learning and computer science.

“Like an engineering student, they’re required to develop project deliverables, professional portfolios, and professionally document, exhibit and articulate design processes,” says Professor Angela Shih, chair of mechanical engineering and lead developer of the academy. “But they have to be able to dig deeper and understand how what they do impacts the world around them. This is the essence of engineering.”

The second part of the academy lasts through spring semester and emphasizes peer mentoring, with CPP students engaging with the high school participants.

Lilly Gossage, director of the Maximizing Engineering Potential program, believes that “virtual peer mentoring” is a cost-effective approach to serving a greater number of students but also cautions that a thoughtful approach to training is critical.

We live in a digital world with relationships being built across the internet in a non-restrictive way; and knowledge transfer happens in the blink of an eye,” Gossage says. “But people are different, and everyone has their own context that overlays what they hear and perceive. So peer mentors must be trained on how to adjust their communication style to be able to be effective in a virtual setting.”

Building the Polytechnic STEAM Academy

Developed in partnership with MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works (MIT LL) and the College of Engineering, the academy is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Legacy endowment.

CPP representatives visited MIT LL, headed by Robert T-I. Shin, director of the Beaver Works Center and division head of MIT LL’s Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance and Tactical Systems Division.