U-Design Gives Kids a Chance to be Engineers


Andrew Merlino and Andrew Ocejo with their Lego kit
Andrew Merlino and Andrew Ocejo with their Lego kit

A near-capacity group of young people from throughout the Boston area learned how to build and program robotic vehicles and make electro-magnetic gadgets at the College of Engineer’s annual U-Design Program in July. The second of two one-week sessions wrapped up on July 21.

Juan Vistro, a student from Jamaica Plain, attended both weeks of U-Design this summer. In the two programs offered, “Electrical Gizmos” and “Robo-Alley,” he learned how to build motors and program robots made from Legos.


“I like learning to program and how to use robots. I also liked learning the different ways to create a circuit,” Juan reported as his favorite parts of both programs. When asked why he is interested in engineering in general, he explained with one word: “Computers. I want to be a computer engineer and my uncle and dad are also engineers.”


The program is designed to expose young students to engineering principles and get them to use their imaginations and creativity to solve problems in a fun atmosphere. One of the program’s goals is to prompt talented, curious young people to consider the possibility of a career in engineering. Like Juan, the majority of U-Design students are entering high school and share an interest in engineering. The students attended daily demonstrations in faculty laboratories, intended to make them aware of the opportunities and possibilities that engineering offers in the working world.

Emily Perito attended U-Design last summer and returned to participate in the “Electrical Gizmos” portion of the program. She will be entering her sophomore year at BostonCollegiateCharterSchool.


“I never know about any of this before. I liked the ‘Gizmos’ because it helped me with science class and I’d never worked with these tools,” she said. When asked whether she would prefer to work with others or individually, she replied, “It depends on the project, sometimes I like to [work with teams] but I can go ahead and do it myself too because I have different ideas.”


The program emphasizes teamwork, especially working as a group toward a common goal. However, each individual’s strength and ideas are essential in creating a thoroughly practical and efficient design, regardless of the project at hand. Since compiling and compromising on ideas is as important in the classroom as it is in the real world, the instructors encourage all students to contribute what they can to the group.

There were 39 students in each session this summer.

Lola Yu, age 14, is among this group of students and found the “Robo-Alley” to be “really interesting” and “unlike anything [she] had done before.” As a student entering her freshmen year in high school, she is now considering a career in engineering after her experience in U-Design.