WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 8, 2011) -- The West Point chapter of the National Society for Black Engineers hosted an engineering expo April 2 at Thayer Hall for seventh and eighth graders from Yonkers and the Bronx.

Children selected from these schools showed an affinity for math and science and were handpicked by their principals to attend the event. The cadet-led expo involved 20 students in three modules including robotics, social networks and bridge design as well as participation in the WARCEN's skills-engagement simulation-an interactive war game simulation at Washington Hall.

"We had 10 cadets volunteering (with this group), all who are members of the Black Engineers Club, each working with two students at a time," Ericka Rovira, Ph.D., assistant professor and engineering psychology lab director, said. "This is the first time we tried anything like this. We hope to follow this group of children through acceptance at an engineering college."

Rovira explained the expo outreach is a cadet initiative that began last year to make college and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields more accessible to the underrepresented middle school and high school populations by showing the lifelong opportunities that a college education can provide.

"The goal is to expose and engage students to engineering at West Point and for cadets to provide service to the community through mentorship," Rovira said.

The outreach program is a three-tiered approach where cadets perform community service outreach to pre-collegiate students by providing engagement, skills development and access.

The first tier aims to capture the attention of a targeted population by inviting groups of middle school students to West Point for the engineering expo.

The second tier assists underrepresented students through preparation where the original students will be invited to return yearly to participate in workshops aimed at improving study skills and developing mentoring relationships.

The final stage is access, where students gain access to science and engineering colleges by visiting six different colleges.

There will be a selection of six students to participate in college visits to schools with strong STEM programs, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and West Point.

The students immersed themselves in programming robots to move with a sound command, such as a loud clap. They also used a computer program to build a bridge and test its structural integrity through computer simulation as well as calculating the cost of the structure.

"This is pretty cool," Mateo Campbell, a seventh grader, said. "Learning how to program is easy for me and programming the robots to race them was fun."

Another student said he was definitely thinking about the field of mathematics.

"I like math and science and want to be a mathematician, not to teach it, but to work with it," Dante Webb, a seventh grader from Yonkers, said. "I'm not that great at it, but I want to give it a try. I am thinking about coming to (West Point) because my uncle is in the Army."

Aside from all the fun learning about robots and bridges, the students engaged the cadets with questions about West Point and what their life is like as cadets.

All of the students did so well with the robotics that Lt. Col. Donald Outing, a mathematics instructor, presented them with the international best seller "The New Way Things Work" by David Macaulay, which explains the newest technological advances and scientific principles with the help of an engaging, but slow-witted woolly mammoth.