I’ve been very busy since my last blog post on the Ontario University Fair. I spent 9 days travelling through California and New York to attend two large university fairs specifically organized for students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related fields. Here is a brief summary of my trip and its highlights.
The first fair was held in Santa Clara, California on October 7th. This fair was held in the Santa Clara Convention Center. My colleague and I were able to answer questions about Waterloo Engineering and our many programs. We were pleasantly surprised to meet with some alumni of our programs who now have children interested in applying to the University of Waterloo. There were also some students who have learned quite a bit about our university and its programs through friends who have attended the university. However, it was also apparent that we still need to make greater efforts to inform high school students and guidance counselors in California about our university and its unique co-op programs. Some other prominent Canadian universities were in attendance at the fair including McGill University and the University of Toronto.
We had a few hours free on October 8th so we arranged to visit the Intel Museum with a friend who studied Computer Engineering with me. Mattias now works in Silicon Valley at a company named Synopsys which is well known in Computer Engineering circles. They make EDA (Electronic Design Automation) Tools for the purpose of building computer chips. The Intel Museum is worth a visit for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of the computer chip. It is a small museum but the exhibits were interesting and interactive.
After touring the museum, we were off to another university fair. This one was held at Henry Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California. As the night progressed, traffic at the Waterloo Engineering booth increased steadily. We met some more alumni as well as a friend of a current Waterloo Engineering student. Most student questions focused on our co-op program and student life. There were a few questions about Canadian weather as well. Looking at a map, it appears that 5 states (Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Alaska) are entirely further north than Waterloo. Prospective students were also quite happy to hear that many of our buildings are connected by tunnels and indoor pathways.
The next morning, we visited Lowell High School in San Francisco to meet with their guidance counselor and students. Then, we were off to visit the new home of RaiseMe, a California-based startup that tracks student achievements and arranges micro scholarships for students to study after graduation from high school. The University of Waterloo was the first Canadian university to partner with RaiseMe so we had a special invitation to tour the new office. My colleague and I met the CEO briefly, toured the new office, and then met to discuss new opportunities for attracting exceptional students to our university.
On Wednesday, October 10th, we visited Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose, California for another university fair. This was a small university fair specifically for students attending the school. We have a long history of students applying from Bellarmine and succeeding in our engineering programs so it was important to attend. That night, my colleague and I hosted a dinner for alumni in the Silicon Valley area. We had representatives from Facebook, Apple, and Synopsys in attendance. We learned quite a bit about life in Silicon Valley and the many opportunities for co-op students.
The next day, we were off to New York City. Most of the day was spent travelling. Rush hour traffic meant a long drive to the San Francisco airport followed by a 5 hour flight and a long drive from the airport to Manhattan.
On Friday, October 12th, we visited NEST+m, a school dedicated to new explorations into science, technology, and math. We had specifically chosen this school given its focus on students interested in STEM. We wanted to provide the guidance counselor with some information on our university so that students might consider us in the future. We then visited Stuyvesant High School to meet with interested students.
On Saturday, October 13th, our alumni in New York were organizing an event around the Terry Fox Run to raise funds for cancer research. We attended a luncheon and met with some of our alumni working in New York City. I met a former student I had taught back in 2005. I also met a civil engineering graduate working on the tallest residential building in Manhattan. I also met quite a few graduates of actuarial science who are working in New York. I had some free time late that afternoon so I walked through Central Park and visited the New York Historical Society. The museum had quite a few interesting exhibits. A special exhibit on “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow” was particularly informative. The museum also had a special exhibit entitled, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” that was entertaining.
On Sunday, October 14th, my travels ended with a large STEM fair held at the Jacob K. Javits Center. This was a large fair attracting students from New York State as well as students from nearby states. New York is well connected by train to the eastern seaboard so it is very easy for students to attend the event. Our booth was surprisingly active. Only a few students made the mistake of thinking we were from Waterloo, New York. Many students had heard of our university. Quite a few students were interested in pursuing engineering programs so it was a very productive trip for us.
While I very much enjoyed visiting California and New York, I was quite happy to return home to the University of Waterloo. I made it back just in time for my 8:30 am lecture on Monday, October 15th.