In 2009, the Women’s Fund helped plant a seed that has grown into a nationally recognized program. A $150,000 Women’s Fund grant—one of the first the program received—helped leverage local donors and state funds into today’s wildly successful Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy.
According to founder Ami Abo-Shaeer, it was a “Venture Capital Bet” on the part of the Woman’s Fund that paid off in a most exciting way. Because of our reputation for in-depth vetting and support for quality programs, other donations followed, sufficient to receive a matching grant from the State of California to allow construction of a $6 million, 12,000-square-foot building.
Building on Success
The Academy, a school within a school, originally focused on robot construction and competition. In the first year, there were 29 boys and only three girls. Now, with the larger facility, they have retired the robots and offer a four-year program with classes in “mechatronics,” a multi-faceted approach to problem-based learning, incorporating machining, physics, industrial design, programming, and CAD (Computer Aided Design).
There are 400 students - with as many girls enrolled as boys - and more reflective of the racial diversity of the community. Eighty percent of DPEA graduates go on to work in STEM related professions. The other 20% have found that the problem-based, scientific curriculum has been extremely valuable in their chosen fields such as finance, politics, and education. DPEA will have graduated 1,000 students by the end of this, their 20th year.
The program aligns with the Women’s Fund mission of supporting women and families—half of the graduates are young women, a proportion well above the national average of female high school students in advanced science classes.
Shaeer, a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, along with his wife and collaborator Emily, have plans to expand the program to bring elementary students into the Dos Pueblos classroom to experience the fun of “the art of engineering” at an early age.
In Their Own Words
Graduates speak glowingly of the program which became the foundation of their college and professional careers.
Siena Applebaum, DPEA Class of 2016 and graduate of USC with a degree in Mechanical Engineering
"The DPEA gave me hands on experience with programming, CAD (SolidWorks), circuit making, machining and critical design thinking. These skills prepared me for my classes and internships throughout college. Working on the senior capstone project specifically taught me how to take a design from conception to execution, how to work with other team members, how to brainstorm innovative solutions to complex challenges, and how to be a student leader. The DPEA instilled in me the belief that I could be an engineer (a career path that I doubt I would have otherwise had the courage to consider), and perhaps most importantly, it showed me that I would love every minute of it.”
KC Egger, DPEA Class of 2015 and graduate of Cal Poly with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a concentration in Mechatronics
"This program prepared me for my career in engineering. I definitely felt like I had a head start over my peers when entering college for my undergrad degree, specifically due to exposure to machining, CAD, and electrical design. I also got experience with software, which was extremely beneficial. Being a woman in engineering can feel daunting, but it felt more doable because I had been exposed to an engineering environment with equal representation of women. I am a huge advocate for this program as it exposes high school students to hands-on learning, which is extremely engaging and fun regardless of future career path."
Meredith Urschel, DPEA Class of 2015 and graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Structural Engineering
"After leaving DP, I went straight to college. Knowledge about engineering from DPEA helped me do well in my three internships during undergrad. I’ve been at Clark Construction for a little over a year and a half and am now working in the company’s self-perform concrete division. I started out building the new Air Force One hangar at Joint Base Andrews and then built a research building at UMD. Right now, I’m working on demoing and rebuilding two new buildings at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda MD.
DPEA definitely helped prepare me for college and my career! I used my SolidWorks fundamentals from Mechatronics to be a design lead on a project team during undergrad using AutoCAD and Fusion360, and now I’m using AutoCAD and Tekla on a daily basis modeling the structural concrete frame of the buildings at Walter Reed.
In this video, graduate Kalina talks about what the DPEA has done for her.