Anthony and Natalie

Tolleson Union High School juniors Anthony Bernal, left, and Natalie Jimenez participate in Young Engineers Shape the World (YesW). (Photo courtesy Tolleson

Union High School District)

It is 9 a.m. on Saturday, and most would think high schoolers at this time would be putting a pause on all thoughts of school and learning.

However, for students in the Young Engineers Shape the World program (YesW), this is a time to explore all sides of engineering through hands-on experiments and collaborations with professionals.

The ASU-created YesW gives high school students the opportunity to learn about the subject deeper than in a typical classroom.

Tolleson Union High School junior Natalie Jimenez has been attending the YesW program since September. Inspired by her uncle, Jimenez is interested in pursuing a mechanical engineering career. She said the Saturday hands-on workshops help develop problem-solving skills. To her surprise, the program helps in other ways.

“I’m not a person who socializes much,” she said. “It’s (YesW) allowed me to become a better person and be able to speak out and be louder with what I want to say.”

The weekly program allows the prospective engineers to gauge their preferences. Tolleson Union High School junior Anthony Bernal said he’s discovered his interests.

“I wanted to experience and see if engineering was for me and right now, I feel like it is,” he said. “I want to get into environmental engineering.”

YesW focuses on promoting diversity within the engineering industry. Program coordinator Lauren Preble said YesW was created to be female-centric, but became nonexclusive. They do aim to bring in pupils from diverse backgrounds, specifically girls and Title 1 students, to show they have endless possibilities in the engineering world.

The program partners with districts in Tolleson, Chandler, Tempe and Phoenix. Tolleson Union High School is one of the newest additions to YesW’s list of partners, having joined this year.

Michele Wilson, the curriculum director for Tolleson Union High School, said YesW is a great way for students to educate themselves on the multifaceted elements of engineering early on, as the industry’s intricacies grow.

“We have a lot of complex problems in the future that are going to have to be solved that are probably going to require people that are very well-skilled in (engineering) fields,” Wilson said. “I think it is incumbent on all of us to look into the future and have everybody well-prepared.”

YesW hosts “Evenings with Engineers,” during which engineers talk to students about their careers and journeys.

“We want to show them there are a lot of engineers out there that come from similar background as them and that they can actually become engineers,” Preble said.

The program also offers mentorship opportunities with ASU students. ASU engineering student Amy Holladay has been a mentor for a year and a half and said the students’ engagement is inspiring.

She said despite students being there early on a Saturday morning, they are always active and interested.

“I have never seen a student not engaged,” said Holladay, a junior. “I’ve always noticed that every student will always get something out of it.”

While this program is still fairly new, Preble said she can see it expanding, as the need for well-rounded engineers grows.

“There is a growing need for diversity in engineering,” Preble said. “We hope YesW can help with that, even in smallest of ways.”