The Freshman Summer Institute program at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is a valuable tool to bridge the gap between high school and university life, according to participants, educators and parents.
Now in its fifth year, the weeklong residential program in the College of Engineering attracted 65 students this past August. Participants attended classes in algebra, trigonometry and geometry, learned study and team work skills and worked on projects related to their majors. In addition, they had the opportunity to hear from guest speakers from the engineering industry about possible future career opportunities.
Participants pay a $200 fee to help defray the costs. The program includes room and board at the university's dorms, where students are supervised by teaching assistants and also three meals per day.
"The purpose of the program is to improve retention and give the students the opportunity to make friends and learn the processes and procedures of university life," said John Finnie, associate dean of the College of Engineering and FSI coordinator. "It has a positive effect on student attitude and their ability to succeed."
At the end of the week, students presented the results of their project work at a poster session held in the university's library. There, the incoming freshmen spoke informally with visitors about what they had learned and their impressions of UMass Dartmouth.
Brad Preston of Dalton, Mass., was a member of the mechanical engineering group that conducted a "Star Wars Simulation." The students broke into two teams representing the United States and North Korea. The North Korean team launched a tennis ball from a catapult at a certain speed and angle to hit the other team. The U.S. team had to determine the angle and speed of a second tennis ball to defend itself.
"Through a combination of math classes and teamwork throughout the week, I learned useful information on study habits and memorization that will help me this fall," Preston said.
Other projects involved artificial intelligence, customized computer gaming, metal heat analysis, water treatment and sound synthesizing.
Computer Science Major Ryan Allen of Sharon, Mass., found the entire FSI experience worthwhile. "It really gives you an idea of what college is going to be like," he said. "The program puts you in an academic mindset and lets you get oriented with the campus. I also thought the teachers came across as very confident," Allen added.
Hannah Smith of Easthampton, Mass., a civil and environmental engineering major, was pleasantly surprised by FSI's value. "I thought it might be boring but it wasn't. It was fun to get to work with people and do something new. The program showed me that college life is going to be different from high school. There's a lot more responsibility...like you have to get yourself up and on a schedule and do things for yourself and manage time wisely."
Teaching Assistant Kumar Palaniswamy assisted the civil engineering team that converted raw H20 to potable and palatable drinking water by completing the coagulation, flocculation, filtration and disinfection of the water. Palaniswamy thought the students were "interactive, cooperative and intelligent," a sentiment echoed by Associate Professor of Physics Renate Crawford.
"My students were very enthusiastic, outgoing and bright and they showed a lot of initiative. Helping them to adjust to university life is the main thing...and I didn't see many jitters," she said.
"These students really seemed to care about their education and were serious and very active," said Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Ray Laoulache. "I hope they perform in the fall semester the way they did at the FSI."
Richard Coopee of Granby, Mass., is pleased that his son Jeff will be majoring in electrical engineering at UMass Dartmouth this fall. "I'm impressed with the projects and amazed that they had these results in one week. You can tell that the kids are excited and proud of what they've accomplished," he said.
Author: "Susan Gonsalves"
Submitted by: Antonio Costa
Department: College Of Engineering