HEADSUP Attracts High School Students to Engineering

Fall 2002

While some Washington, DC-area high school students spend their summers serving up mocha javas and surfing cable TV reruns, a growing number are sampling the world of engineering as they program Java scripts and pull cable for network installations at the Pentagon.

These future engineers are part of the Hopkins Engineering Advanced Summer University Program, (HEADSUP), based at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County campus (MCC). “We want to show high school students that engineering is fun, that you can solve a lot of problems in the world with engineering,” says Richard Scott, director of MCC Part-time Engineering and HEADSUP. “Lots of kids are good in math and science,” he explains. “We want to open a window up for them to the opportunities in engineering.”

This December, HEADSUP enters its third year with the annual “What Is Engineering?” fair, which introduces Washington-area students and their families, teachers, and counselors to engineers from the region’s companies. “We give the engineers name tags that say things like ‘mechanical engineer’ and ‘software engineer’” says Scott. “The kids walk right up to their company booths and get into conversations about what the engineers do for a living.” Also during the fair, HeadsUP hands out applications to students who are interested in participating in the seven-week summer program. About 75 students attended two years ago; last year, attendance topped 400. “I expect the program to grow,” says Scott.


The program combines classes taught by Whiting School faculty with internships—some paid—at area engineering firms. During last summer’s HEADSUP program, some 38 students (up from 22 the year before) participated, and 22 interned at ITA Corporation, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Virion Systems, SoftMed Systems, and other sites. The eight students interning for ManTech Advanced Systems International, Inc. had to get security clearances so they could help install network cabling in the Pentagon. The four who interned at Hopkins in the Department of Biomedical Engineering undertook “substantive engineering work at the top biomedical engineering department in the country,” says Scott.

During the 2001 summer session, Mark Remekis, who had just graduated from high school, took a Java programming course at the Hopkins MCC, followed by an internship at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Through his internship, Remekis says, he worked “in conjunction with scientists to make a program using C++ that can better organize, calculate, and format large amounts of data.” He’s now a student at Washington University in St. Louis.

With increased marketing efforts and growing interest in the program, HEADSUP is gearing up to provide even more area math and science students with opportunities to become involved in real-world problem-solving and to experience the rewards of engineering first-hand. The program also grows through involvement. “Some alumni sponsor students with modest scholarships,” says Scott. “If they have a company, they can provide an internship, paid or unpaid.”

To become involved in HeadsUP, contact Richard Scott at (301) 294-7070 or by e-mail at [email protected]