Many of the top-ranked high schools in Arizona have at least one thing in common: they're giving their students early exposure to the fundamentals of engineering.
Seven of 15 high schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the best in Arizona currently offer the University of Arizona Engineering 102 in High School course, or ENGR 102 HS. The engineering introduction program gives high school students a chance to try their engineering skills before they enter or commit to a college.
For the fall 2012 semester, 25 Arizona high schools are scheduled to offer the course, in cities such as Yuma and Benson, as well as schools in the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas. The seven schools listed in the Top 15 Best High Schools in Arizona offering ENGR 102 HS are University High, Catalina Foothills, Chaparral High, Hamilton, Sabino, Canyon del Oro and Ironwood Ridge.
The No. 1 high school in the state as ranked by U.S. News is Tucson's own University High, which has been offering ENGR 102 HS since fall 2010. University High also ranked No. 4 in the nation, up from a national ranking of 21 last year. More than 60 University High students have gone through the ENGR 102 HS program since it was introduced to students there.
"Partnering with the University of Arizona to offer students the ENGR 102 HS class on our campus is one of the highlights of our course offerings," said Elizabeth Moll, University High School principal. Moll credits outstanding teachers such as Mike Schmidt, the ENGR 102 HS teacher at University High, who can teach this type of advanced curriculum to students.
"The collaboration that occurs between University High School and the University of Arizona is a model for the country," she said.
Engineering 102, or ENGR 102, is an introductory engineering course that all freshmen in the UA College of Engineering are required to complete. The course is designed to introduce students to engineering design principles and practices, as well as current and emerging challenges within the field. The course also is developed to expose students to a variety of engineering disciplines, to better match students to a degree that's closest to their skills and interests.
"Students (in the program) get the chance to try college-level projects and course work in the high school environment, with teachers they know," said J. Jill Rogers, coordinator for the ENGR 102 HS program at the UA.
"This gives students confidence and helps prepare them for what's to come in their freshman year in UA engineering."
Rogers said ENGR 102 HS also allows students to get a three-unit course out of the way, making it possible to take a lighter load of classes in their freshman year of college, if they choose.
"Some ENGR 102 HS students decide to take a full load of classes their freshman year and work ahead of their peers," Rogers said. "ENGR 102 HS provides future engineering students with these types of options."
In addition to introduction to engineering, high schools offering ENGR 102 HS are giving their juniors and seniors who are enrolled in pre-calculus or above a chance to receive college credit while still in high school, she said.
U.S. News partnered with the American Institutes for Research to interview 21,776 public high schools across the country for their Best High Schools 2012 rankings. One hundred eighteen Arizona schools made the rankings, according to U.S. News.
ENGR 102 HS was developed with financial support from Science Foundation Arizona, Intel Corp. and the Salt River Project.