Students at Homewood-Flossmoor high school received a chance to experience college classwork a year early.
Four members of Tony Svozil's senior college engineering course — Alex Morris, of Flossmoor, and Leslie Bonthron, Kate Jennings and Katie Seaver, all of Homewood — spent part of their fall semester with the Illinois Institute of Technology's Interprofessional Projects Program.
The students, who all carry advanced placement class loads in addition to extra-curricular activities, left school before the end of the day to attend class from 3:15 to 6 p.m. at IIT's main campus in Chicago. They worked side-by-side with undergraduate students on projects aimed at solving problems submitted by industrial sponsors.
Students in the college engineering course earn college credit.
"With selection to upper tier colleges and universities being so selective a prospective student has to market themselves, create their own personal brand," Svozil said. "As teachers, we can only provide our students with opportunities. I hope that I provided an opportunity to set these four students above the pack."
Svozil approached Michael Gosz, vice provost for undergraduate affairs and associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at IIT, in November 2012 about the possibility of enrolling students in the fall 2013 IPRO. Gosz agreed and met with parents of the students in May.
"It was a great experience to work along side college students, but it was incredibly intimidating working along college students for the first few times," Bonthron said. "I wasn't sure if they were going to listen to my ideas or even include me in the decisions, but they did. They didn't treat me any different."
Bonthron's group worked on a smartphone app for outdoor sprinkler systems. It allows users to turn off sprinklers from anywhere, solving the problem of sprinkler systems running during a rain storm. The app also combined moisture, temperature and solar sensors that provide information about the lawn to optimize water usage.
"I decided to take college engineering because I knew I wanted to go into engineering and this class would give me some basic knowledge that first year engineering students normally learn," Bonthron said. "It will give me a head start when it comes to college."
Jennings and her team worked on a commercial system to monitor fish aquarium conditions and the automation of feeding. Morris' group built a website similar to Craig's List, but limited to IIT campus, where students could sell each other items and services like tutoring. Seaver worked on a cell phone security device that could detect a thief, sound an alarm and lock the phone.
Svozil said the goal is to make the program a permanent part of Homewood-Flossmoor curriculum. The feedback, thus far, has all been favorable and four more H-F students will join IPRO in January.