Connecting Present and Future Raiders

Rufus King High School senior Maximus Bryant is excited about becoming an electrical engineer and an MSOE Raider. Thanks to philanthropic support from American Family Insurance in partnership with MSOE, he was given a glimpse of his academic future through the Senior Design Scholars program this spring.

MSOE launched the Senior Design Scholars program in 2022, which recruits a cohort of high school seniors from the greater Milwaukee area that are already accepted to attend MSOE and lets them experience collegiate academic life as a member of an MSOE senior design team. The high school students work closely with MSOE seniors and faculty advisors to address real-world challenges and present their work at the MSOE Senior Project Showcase in May.

This year, there were four high school students who were paired up with two teams of MSOE mechanical engineering students. The MSOE seniors who participated received support for their capstone project while serving as mentors and ambassadors for the university.

Bryant and his teammate, fellow Rufus King senior Ben Liebl, were assigned to the PneuMan 2.0 senior design project, a humanoid robot powered by both electrical and pneumatic actuation. For MSOE senior Corbin Gustafson, having both high school seniors on his team was beneficial to the project and an opportunity for Gustafson to provide mentorship to the scholars.

“My teammates and I were very thankful to have help from these scholars. I was excited to assign them tasks above their skill level and then watch them learn more about fluid power and how senior design works,” said Gustafson.

For Bryant, the relationships he made on campus before officially becoming a freshman were incredibly valuable. “Instead of being completely new to MSOE next year, I’ll arrive having already made important connections with professors and upperclassmen who will be there to support me,” said Bryant.

Liebl agreed on the benefits of the new program. “When I joined my goal was to learn about college life, but I received much more. I now have a useful skill set on how basic pneumatics work, how to compose a bill of material, and design pneumatic circuitry,” said Liebl.

MSOE was thrilled to partner with American Family for this new, innovative initiative to cultivate the next generation of diverse STEM leaders. The launch of the Senior Design Scholars program is part of the university’s efforts to widen access to STEM education, increase student retention, and strengthen a sense of inclusion and belonging within the MSOE community.

“American Family Insurance is proud to partner with MSOE to offer the Senior Design Scholars program, as we share their passion for expanding exposure and awareness around STEM education to future MSOE students,” said Maritza Contreras, American Family community and social impact advisor. “This program gives a diverse group of high school seniors a tremendous opportunity to participate in STEM-centered disciplines, tackle real-world issues and prepare for future success in STEM careers while earning college credits.”

The program also provided participants opportunities for team building, cross-cultural communication, and helped kickstart their development as STEM learners. Learning more about STEM was one of the reasons Lisbeth Cruz-Molina, a senior at Carmen South High School, was excited to join the program. The program helped her gain additional skills that will benefit her beyond the classroom. “I gained confidence and learned how to communicate more, how to be fearless and to not be afraid to try new things.”

Her teammate Erin Snow, a senior at Homestead High School in Mequon, agreed. “Without the Senior Design Scholars program, I wouldn’t be as confident and comfortable with pursuing a major in STEM. This program opened my eyes on what I can be.”

Snow and Cruz-Molina worked with MSOE seniors Alex Reid, Jack Haek, Willian Busch and Andrew Ramirez to create “The Automated Tool-Changing Machine.” Their Additive/Subtractive Manufacturing Robot (ASMR) acts as an all-in-one manufacturing and prototyping device optimized for use in small-scale research and development applications or hobbyist-level workshops.

Reid says the experience was life-changing for everyone who participated. “Thank you, American Family Insurance, for not only impacting the lives of six seniors on our project, but for supporting the development of a product that could ultimately impact others in the future. Your kindness and generosity are supporting many bright young engineering careers, and that’s a very admirable result.”

As for Molina-Cruz, Snow, Bryant and Liebl, they are all thankful to have had this opportunity and would encourage any high school senior to be part of this dynamic and inclusive program.

“I would 100% recommend and encourage other high schoolers to join this program. It gives insight into the STEM fields, opens the door for many future opportunities and challenges you for the better, said Snow.”