by Andrew McClain
The Northeast Texas Community College Department of Physics and Engineering recently held their fourth annual Engineering Roundtable and Luncheon at Northeast Texas Community College. This event – organized by Dr. Paula Wilhite, Division Chair of Math, Physics, and Engineering – is designed to expose high school students – as well as Northeast students – to the NTCC engineering program and unique opportunities it provides. More than that, students received the opportunity to meet and talk with professional engineers in various fields ranging from mechanical to chemical and from civil to electrical.
“According to research,” Wilhite said, “one of the most significant barriers for these students is the lack of role models. Increasing outreach to high school and community college students to equip them with the information they need for success has not only been highly recommended, but is also considered a responsibility of educators.” Meeting that responsibility and equipping engineering students with such information is exactly what the Roundtable and luncheon was created to do.
Turnout this year far surpassed previous years with a record-breaking 105 people in attendance from multiple institutions in the area. Students attending the luncheon came from several schools, including Paul Pewitt High, Mount Pleasant High, Hugh Springs High, Chapel Hill High, Winsboro High, Pittsburg High, and NTCC itself. Students in attendance were given the opportunity to meet with professional engineers and received counsel in regards to pursuing a career in the field. More than that, SWEPCO made a generous donation of $1,000 to sponsor the event, and two high school students, Isidoro Hernandez and Chesney Davis, were awarded $500 scholarships each. Also, students in attendance were encouraged to apply for the NTCC Foundation Scholarship.
Dr. Brent Donham, mechanical engineer and faculty member at Texas A&M University – Commerce, said about the event, “For engineers, I think this is key that they can come and really get some concrete ideas together of ‘What is Engineering?’ and ‘What could I do with it?’ and spur on new ideas.”
Hughes Springs High School Junior Cypress Wright echoed the sentiment. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak personally with so many engineers,” Wright said. “They offered helpful advice and a new perspective that will be very valuable as I pursue a career in the field.”
Wilhite said that students who choose the NTCC Engineering program over larger schools reap such benefits as small, concentrated classes that are close to home and affordable and whose instructors are remarkably accessible in comparison to those of larger schools. More than that, students are offered unique internship opportunities within local engineering industries as well as substantial scholarship opportunities and a chance to join the prestigious honors society Phi Theta Kappa. “When our graduates leave NTCC,” Wilhite added, “they enroll in a four-year university to continue their studies and complete a B.S. in a field of engineering… Following graduation with a B.S. in a field of engineering, these students have excellent opportunities to become employed in a financially and otherwise rewarding career.”