By Kevin Howell

Interest in engineering is at an all-time high, as technology continues to emerge as the dominant global industry.

So it’s no surprise that in a recent survey of high school seniors, engineering was the most popular major of choice. And it doesn’t hurt that engineer majors earn the highest salaries either.

But with the popularity of engineering comes competition—not only for jobs and internships, but admission to university engineering programs.

So how do you prepare for this competitive field? And how can you get a head-start in engineering to be better equipped for college and more attractive to admissions boards?

Well, nothing beats hands-on experience. Here are a few examples of how to get engineering experience before college.

Summer Programs

A great way to get immersed in engineering is taking advantage of the growing number of summer engineering camps offered by universities. These camps can last a few days or several weeks.

Students explore different fields of engineering, learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills, conduct research, work on group projects, and do presentations.

Research a university in your area to see if they offer such a program.

Engineering Contests

Another option is to compete in various engineering and STEM contests for high school students.

Students compete against others in competitions in robotics, design, or other science and technology related contests. Whether you win or not, it gives your resume and college application a boost.

EPICs Student Projects

EPICs is a signature program of IEEE—the world’s largest technical professional organization—that partners students with professionals to work on engineering-related projects for humanitarian organizations.

What type of projects do high school students work on?

  • Members of the IEEE STEM club at New Jersey’s Bridgewater-Raritan High School participated in a digital literacy program where they designed a cyber classroom and installed computer, software, and internet access in a rural Indian village
  • High school students at Colegio Centro America Paulo XII in La Paz Centro, Nicaragua, worked on simple circuit-board solar kits, a prototype monitoring system, and credit card-sized raspberry pi computers to develop solutions to local agricultural challenges
  • Students from Oakland High School and Oude Molen Technical High School in South Africa worked with University of Cape Town students to install a computer lab and conduct an energy audit to assess energy consumption

Imagine having that type of experience on your college application or resume?

If you’re interested in a career in engineering and plan to major in a STEM degree program, getting a taste of engineering before college is extremely beneficial. Check out one of the above programs to get your education and career off to a great start.

Interested in gaining the type of experience high school students in New Jersey, Nicaragua, and South Africa did? Check out EPICS in IEEE and submit an application for a project.