Armed with schematics and Legos, teenagers on their summer vacation worked in teams to build a robot. While in a biomechanics laboratory on UNLV's campus, more learned the intricacies of motion capture animation.
For three days last week, 38 high-achieving students from across Las Vegas who recently finished the eighth grade attended the DAWSON-UNLV Honors College Bound Program, a partnership of the non-profit Alexander Dawson Foundation and UNLV.
The students gained hands-on experience from UNLV professors and Honors College students while working on high-tech equipment in robotics, drones, water quality, biomechanics, graphic design, library science and anthropology.
The experience included the opportunity to stay in campus dorms for two nights.
The partnership was formed by UNLV assistant vice provost for undergraduate education Chris Heavey and and Dawson College Bound director Chris Estrella, who received his master's in education from UNLV. The two men worked together to design an experience that gave a taste of college life to high-achieving students, some of whom may have never stepped on a college campus before.
Estrella explained the concept: "We wanted to create a program to prepare some of our best and brightest in Southern Nevada for college and give them something that they've never experienced before, while at the same time showing them some of the best that UNLV has to offer."
And for the kids who may become the first in their families to attend college?
"The experience removes that unknown factor of 'how am I going to get to college, how am I going to afford it,' by staying on campus and interacting with campus. It becomes much more real for them."
Heavey said the students received the chance to focus on different fields that will make them curious about job opportunities they may not have considered, such as robotics or drones.
"High tech jobs are going to be the biggest opportunity for these students by the time they graduate," Heavey said. "This is about getting the kids excited about the future, and it's the perfect time as they prepare to build their academic record to go to college."
The Dawson College Bound Program is a long-term initiative that provides academic enrichment and mentorship to high-achieving, diverse, Southern Nevada youth, with a goal of bridging their paths from middle school to selective high schools and colleges. The program is funded by the Alexander Dawson Foundation and coordinates with the Clark County School District Partnership Office. This is the first year Dawson partnered with UNLV on the program.