Young Scholars Program Cultivates Pipeline of Future Engineers

Achievement date: 

A mentoring program at the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications ERC (LESA) for high school students is exposing student researchers to the engineering laboratory environment as well as to regional and national competitions. The students are mentored by Professor Partha Dutta, the ERC’s deputy director. The LESA Engineering Research Center is supported by the National Science Foundation and is headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Cultivating youth interest in engineering, and in lighting-enabled systems and applications in particular, is important to the ERC. The LESA ERC Young Scholars Program works to increase the number of students involved in engineering research by exposing them to the Smart Lighting ERC’s technology.


LESA ERC Professor Partha Dutta began a unique collaboration with Shaker High School, of Latham, NY, in the spring of 2010. Shaker is one of 110 high schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that offer a “Science Research in the High School” (SRHS) course. Under the program, students apply at the end of their freshman year to embark on a 3-year academic commitment with the potential of earning 12 undergraduate credits from the University at Albany, State University of New York (

The goal of the program is for the students to complete 900 hours of research on a topic of interest that relies on collaborations between participating high schools and university faculty or industry researchers. The students’ research experience culminates with their participation in regional and potentially national science competitions. 

One student mentored by Dutta, Earl Co, was recognized with both the Innovative Engineering Award from the National Society of Professional Engineers and the Naval Science Award from the Office of Naval Research for his project, Audio Transmission Over Light Using Free Space Optic.