More Hispanic Engineers Needed

Last night at Rice University Exxon Mobile awarded scholarships to three high school seniors at the Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards. In the US, energy analysts say there's a shortage of students going into science and engineering fields. That shortage is even greater when it comes to minorities. Bill Stamps has more.
When you say it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do something. Everyone knows that means it's pretty easy. That's because Rocket Scientists are engineers who are thought of as being smart and good in math and science. But analysts say these days not enough people want to be engineers, especially minorities. Twelfth Grader Carolina White is an exception.

"I love math and science, but I don't just want to do the theoretical part of it, [instead] working in labs and stuff."

White is Hispanic and is a senior at Friendswood High school. She was the first place winner in an essay contest and is being awarded a three-thousand dollar scholarship from Exxon Mobile. White recently took a trip to Honduras and feels with her engineering background she'll be able to help people on a personal level.

"I saw how like we built schools for them. And you can apply it to real world situations, and actually do something like help cure cancer, help poverty and that's what really got me interested. "

According to the National Science Foundation, American Universities awarded around 75-thousand engineering degrees in 2007. Of those students only about 5-thousand were Hispanic. Truman Bell works for Exxon Mobile and says a big problem is that many students don't know much about what engineers do. The only engineer they know is the person who works on a train.

"I think a lot of kids have a hard time relating what they're studying to careers in the future. And math and science are not easy courses, they're rigorous courses, and they need to be, to produce those people that to participate in society with those types of backgrounds."

Carolina White knows exactly what engineers do. And she knows what she wants to do when she becomes one. She'd like to help find a cure for cancer using nanotechnology.

"You can picture kind of those sci-fi movies with little nano-robots. So basically I'm interested in applying that to having them combat cancer and tumor cells inside a person's body. Injecting these little nanobots that will kill the tumor, so and that's what I hope to do research in."

Working with nano-robots — it's not rocket science, but it's just as hard. White plans to attend Rice this fall.

Bill Stamps KUHF Houston Public Radio news.