A Pathway to Engineering


Goals of Outreach

Outreach, in general, is an activity of providing services to any populations who might not otherwise have access to those services. Specific to my field, this relates to increasing diverse participating in STEM fields. Faculty engage in a variety of outreach activities, each shaped by their own experiences and passions.

My outreach objective is to provide a pathway to engineering to a diverse population of individuals who did not pursue engineering post-high school, perhaps due to socio-economic status or stigmas of engineering. The specific wording of pathway to engineering was taken from a publication, "Why so Few?", which examines the reasoning behind a lack of women in engineering. It is my specific belief that we (as a community) need to continue inspiring potential engineers as they mature, get new experiences, and in general find their way in life. Others are trying to inspire students at the K-12 level to pursure STEM fields. I'm trying to inspire and help those post high school, after a non-STEM path has been chosen. Toward this, I'm running a pathway to engineering program with two initial sub-programs, both of which were born out of my own recent experience with students.

Veterans / Active Military

For the first program, I'm offering to mentor veterans and help them gain the necessary background to pursue a career or education in engineering. There is a great deal of online self-learning resources, but sometimes navigating them is a daunting task, and even understanding the subtopics within computer science/engineering is challenging. Further, when using self-learning, sometimes personalized help (e.g., debugging code) can be invaluable. This is not about online learning, it's about being a resource to help figure out a path and be there to help in any way I can during the entire journey.

This program will ultimately pair up veterans with an advisor (with me being the first, and currently only) who will interact with the veteran through various means (email, video chat, etc.). I hope to ultimately leverage the Office of Veterans Services connections to the many military establishments in Colorado (Fort Carson, Buckley Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, the United States Air Force Academy, etc.) to spread the word.

If you are a veteran and this sounds of interest to you, please reach out to me (eric.keller@colorado.edu).

Accessibility of Engineering (for non-Engineers)

The second program will provide female non-engineering undergraduate students an opportunity to explore engineering with the goal of inspiring them and demonstrating the accessibility of engineering to all. I fully believe in efforts to try to help promote at the K-12 level that engineering is accessible for everyone. I'm looking to fill the gap afterwards to continue this message.

The program structure is inspired by the University of Colorado BOLD center’s spring break for research program, which currently teams an engineering undergraduate with a engineering graduate student over spring break (paying a nominal stipend to each) for a week long intensive research project. We will create a program like this for non-engineering undergraduate students and instead of the undergraduate helping with a graduate student’s research (since they will not have the technical background), we will ask the pair to develop something that could have an impact on society (showing that engineering is not just math and coding, but can also be creative and impactful, and helping overcome stigmas of engineering). The technical development will be performed by the graduate student, and the undergraduate student can help with the conception, design, and presentation.

If you are an undergraduate female student not in Engineering, and are interested, please reach out (eric.keller@colorado.edu).

Likewise, if you are a graduate student in Computer Science or Computer Engineering that would be interested in participating, please reach out.