The Charger Blog

University Collaborates with Sikorsky to Host STEM Event for High School Students

As part of Sikorsky’s STEM Challenge, local high school students interacted with industry professionals from the University and from Sikorsky, exploring possible careers and building skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

May 11, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Three high school students pose for a photo.
The team of students from Joel Barlow High School at the University.

During her four years of high school, Mia L., a senior at Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Conn., has explored topics such as engineering and coding as part of the Sikorsky STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Challenge. The program recently brought her to the University of New Haven, where she and her classmates had an opportunity to further build their skills and demonstrate what they’ve learned.

Mia and her teammates had been collaborating on a design project that aims to develop and demonstrate a Mars landing craft. As part of the 11th Sikorsky STEM Challenge Final Challenge Day held at the University, they presented their work to a team of judges – professionals from Sikorsky and the University of New Haven.

“It has been a great opportunity to take part in this,” she said. “It’s fun to see other projects and to see how other teams face their challenges. Learning how they solve them has been interesting.”

During the past academic year, more than a dozen Sikorsky staff members have been meeting virtually with eight high school teams, offering mentorship and guidance as the students developed their projects. A team from Joel Barlow High School was among three that visited the University for the culminating event, while the other five participated virtually.

Fabian H., a Joel Barlow High School sophomore and Mia’s teammate, took part in the program for the first time this year. He says presenting at the University was the first chance he had to deliver a formal presentation like this.

“This experience will help me when I am in college and during my career,” he said. “Being able to have this on my resume will also help me. I learned so many new skills, such as coding.”

A team of judges from the University and Sikorsky tested the students’ designs.
A team of judges from the University and Sikorsky tested the students’ designs.
‘Get kids interested in STEM early’

As part of their presentations, students discussed their design as if they were selling it to a potential customer. Judges asked students questions and assessed their presentations. A team of judges also tested their designs, which were tasked with sensing the best landing location and dropping a payload containing an egg. Judges evaluated the quality of the landing and noted whether or not the egg survived intact.

Prathamesh “Prat” Patil ’20 M.S., ’23 Ph.D., a candidate in the University’s doctorate in engineering and applied science program, was among the judges testing the students’ projects. He was part of a robotics challenge when he was in high school, and he remembers what a meaningful experience it was for him.

“It is cool to enable high school students to engage with technology, such as 3D printing,” he said. “This helps give them a bright future, and it is exciting. It’s so enjoyable to see them accelerating their knowledge.”

The program also enables high school students to gain hands-on and real-life experience from mentors at Sikorsky. The hope is that it will encourage them to consider careers in the STEM fields and encourage more industry diversity.

“This is extremely important,” said Ashley Currivan, a senior mechanical controls engineer for Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company that manufactures the Army's iconic Black Hawk helicopter. “It is important for us to get kids interested in STEM early in their academic careers and, hopefully, come to Sikorsky for internships and jobs. We also hope to get more girls interested in engineering.”

Prat Patil ’20 M.S., ’23 Ph.D., assessing the high school students’ projects.
Prat Patil ’20 M.S., ’23 Ph.D., assessed the high school students’ projects.
‘We are all in it together’

Following the presentations, students toured the campus, learning more about the University’s state-of-the-art facilities. Stephanie Gillespie, Ph.D., associate dean of the University’s Tagliatela College of Engineering who helped plan the presentations, says the event was a wonderful opportunity for the high school students – and for everyone involved.

“We were very excited to host this at the University,” she said. “This has been a collaboration with Sikorsky, and we’re excited to embrace this. It’s great for the University’s visibility and for STEM outreach. It’s also great for diversity and for helping students see engineering as a career path.”

“This has been a great collaboration with the University,” added Currivan. “We hope University of New Haven students will also intern and work for Sikorsky. We hope to backfill our workforce with talented and passionate people.”

Alexis O., a senior at Joel Barlow High School, enjoyed getting to learn from the other teams and from the industry professionals. She says she was particularly excited to attend the event in person.

“Even though it is a competition, it feels like we are all in it together,” she said. “It’s great to come to the University and to see the other teams facing similar challenges and coming up with different solutions. It’s cool to see everyone come together.”

Joel Barlow High School deliver their presentation in front of a projection.
Joel Barlow High School students deliver their presentation.