"The light is bent and trapped inside the higher index plastic, and again, that's what fiber optic cable does," inventor Brian Richardson recently told a class. He is a volunteer teacher at High Tech U, a program sponsored by Semi Foundation and by tech companies like Rambus and KLA-Tencor. The three-day program allows students to make sense of what they're learning in high school.
"In school, we learn math and science, but you never really think of how you might use it in the future. You just sit through class, do homework. It's just all lectures and homework, and here, I actually get to apply what I learn and get an insight on my future," Independence High School senior Kendra Tu said. They're learning about LED's by building flashlights from a kit. They're learning about teamwork and design engineering by creating a holder for a six-pack of soft drinks. And, they're suiting up in bunny suits to make silicon wafers in a clean room.
"By visualizing how people work in those environments, they can see themselves doing the same type of work in the future and that's not something they would necessarily experience in ordinary life either at school or at home," chip designer John Kent said.
More than 4,000 students have attended High Tech U programs in the U.S. and abroad. The goal is to increase the pool of engineers. Students also benefit from learning about specialties. "I just thought engineering was just one thing, but they showed me eight different things and I had chosen to go into mechanical engineering," High Tech U alumnus Christoph Skoff said.
Semi Foundation hopes to expand the program with the need for engineers growing and with more global high tech competition. "Doubling the number of programs per year is our goal in the next five years because we feel, and so does the companies that support us right now, that we need to do more of this," Semi Foundation Vice President Lisa Anderson said.