Summer Engineering Institute: An Unforgettable Experience

By Stephanie Wang – 12th Grade, Peters Township High School

“The first week will drag, but the other three weeks will be over in a flash.” I was told this on one of the first days of the Summer Engineering Institute (SEI), a 4 week program hosted at Lehigh University designed to introduce students to the disciplines of engineering. Looking back now, I can affirm that statement to be completely true.


SEI students and mentors visiting NASA (Photo Courtesy of Eren Kalfaoglu)

In these four weeks, we attended lectures taught by Lehigh University professors and other professionals, labs applying engineering concepts, worked on projects like a Shark Tank Project and a Grand Challenge Project, went on field trips varying to NASA to a mini golfing, and socialized with each other through activities like a water balloon fight to a karaoke night. As you can probably guess, those four weeks were very busy, challenging, and fun-filled.


Says Annie, a rising junior from Queens, NY, “The rigorous but dynamic program has given me the best summer I could have asked for. I’ve made incredible friends and now know what type of engineer I want to be. For that, I am extremely grateful and would go back in a heartbeat if I could.”


Not only did we learn a ton about various engineering fields, but we also learned that there’s more to engineering than just integrals and equations– there’s also political, ethical, and economic considerations too. Something that Professor Bill Best stressed to us was that engineers must also consider the ethical questions and question not only if something can be done but also if it should be done. We delved into case studies of engineering disasters like the Dalkon Shield, a form of birth control that’s use lead to the deaths and sterilization of hundreds of thousands of women, and the Challenger, whose engineers knew of a problem with the spacecraft and still launched the vessel into space. These discussions helped me view engineering a different way that I’d never even considered before.

In addition to our lectures and field trips, we also had projects. For our main Grand Challenge project, all 50 of us were also grouped into one of the 10 Grand Challenges of engineering (such as Environment/Sustainability, 3D Printing, Military Technology, and Biotechnology). The project, which addressed a single issue and proposed a possible solution, consisted of an abstract, interim PowerPoint presentation, and a final poster presentation in front of 8 judges. I was in the Environment/Sustainability group and our project was on air pollution and a new air filter we designed that would help ensure clean air in a cost-effective way. I’d always been extremely passionate about the environment, and this project gave me the opportunity to apply my research into something tangible and applicable.



My group presenting for the Shark Tank Project (Photo Courtesy of Eren Kalfaoglu)

What was so unique about SEI was that it also stressed innovation and entrepreneurship too. All of us did a Shark Tank Project, where we were randomly grouped with four other students. For the project, we had three days to present a new product that would help physically challenged individuals to four “sharks” for investment. My group’s product was a bra that would help cure scoliosis in adolescent girls in a more discreet, comfortable, and less expensive way than surgery or a brace would.


Taken as a whole, “SEI was an amazing experience where I got to make new friends and learn a bit more about what type of engineering I like,” says Jake, a rising senior from Radnor, PA.



The 2016 SEI students, mentors, and coordinators (Photo Courtesy of Josh Smeltzer)



Similarly, at SEI, I’ve made life-long friends that share my interests and my passions as well as expanded my knowledge on the different types of engineering. I have enough memories from SEI to last a lifetime– it has truly been an unforgettable experience. Even though it seems to me like the entire camp went by in a week and a day, I wouldn’t trade my time at SEI for anything.




Stephanie Wang 2

Stephanie Wang is a rising senior at Peters Township High School. She was a PYM Reporter last year and is the current head editor of Business Funnel. Stephanie has been published in media outlets like the Almanac and Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette. Besides writing, Stephanie enjoys cooking and making bad puns.


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