GatorTRAX returns this fall

Program introduces young students to careers in engineering and related fields


The Engineering GatorTRAX Math Excellence Initiative will again host sessions on three Saturdays this fall and four in the spring at the University of Florida College of Engineering. (Special to the Guardian)

Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.

The Engineering GatorTRAX Math Excellence Initiative to encourage innovation and teamwork, while also using fun activities to reinforce math concepts, will kick off another new school year.

Facts

GATORTRAX

* What: GatorTRAX, a program designed to get students interested in engineering and related fields

* When: Saturdays this fall and next spring.

* Where: 270 Weil Hall, University of Florida campus.

* Cost: Free.

* Information/registration: Visit www.ufgatortrax.com.

The free University of Florida program is available to Alachua County students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Designed to pave the way for careers in engineering and related fields, GatorTRAX sessions will be held on three Saturdays this fall and four Saturdays next spring at the University of Florida College of Engineering.

Sessions this fall will be held from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 in Weil Hall, Room 270 on the UF campus, just south of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field. The spring dates have not been established.

Parents can register their children online at www.ufgatortrax.com. There currently is no limit on the number of students who may attend.

The objective of GatorTRAX, which was started with a grant from the GE Fund, is to increase the number of underrepresented students in higher-level math classes, especially African-Americans, Hispanics and females. However, the program is open to all students who are interested in or struggling with math.

The goals for students in the program include passing Algebra 1 by the end of the eighth grade, passing calculus by the end of 12th grade, successfully completing pre-engineering studies at a community college and earning an engineering degree from a college or university.

Alexandra James, who took her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to the final session last spring, said her children had a great time.

"The program is excellent for young children because it is very interactive," James said. "They explain the engineering mechanisms they are introducing the children to in a very elementary way so that the children understand them."

She said the session her children attended dealt with the engineering principles associated with roller coasters.

"My kids enjoyed the program immensely," James said.

In addition to the Saturday sessions, the program also includes campus tours, mentoring and regular classroom instruction that will take place on Saturdays as well, but the dates for those have yet to be determined.

The Saturday activity sessions will engage students in hands-on activities that demonstrate core engineering principles, said Emily Hester, president of the Florida Alpha chapter of Tau Beta Pi, a national engineering honor society founded in 1885 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

Hester said the topics for the sessions this fall have not been determined, but she said topics of previous sessions have included Lego cars, water rockets (a type of model rocket using water as its reaction mass), ultimate bridges (novel bridge structures made of wood) and mystery design (a type of independent suspension system used in motorcycles).

Hester said GatorTRAX is sponsored by the national and UF chapters of Tau Beta Pi, and also BP, Exxon, the GE Foundation, Nielsen Holdings Inc. and Schlumberger Limited, the world's leading supplier of technology, integrated project management and information solutions to customers working in the oil and gas industries.

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