IMPACT: Integrating Interests

  • Tags: Achievements | Foundation | Newsletter
Published 06/25/2018
Pietrek Kubasak poses with a welding draft

People often treated Pietrek Kubasak differently when they learned he was homeschooled–it was usually in a good way. “A veterinarian explained biology and surgery to me. An HVAC specialist described how a system worked,” Pietrek recalled.

Experiences like those reinforced his boundless love of learning. Pietrek is pursuing a degree in welding and recently learned about micro welding through a job-shadowing experience. But he also wants to explore his other interests, like music and math.

Extremely competitive, he knows he’s good at math. But even he was surprised when his fall 2017 Integration Contest first-place win was earned without any errors. He had placed second in the previous semester’s contest. Pietrek’s math and welding instructors at ECC recognized his unique talents and inspired him to research and consider welding engineering. The field joins his extraordinary skills in the career  and technical education area of welding with his outstanding academic achievements.

“While I’m still deciding what’s next, the ECC Foundation’s Welding Scholarship and the Industrial Manufacturing/Maintenance Technology Scholarship are a huge relief from the stress of paying for college.” Pietrek realizes he “doesn’t fit in a box,” so he’s appreciated the attention, support, diversity, and opportunities at ECC. “Coming here was a great decision—and with my scholarships, it was affordable for me and my family.”

Integrating Innovation

Predicting the spread of information through social networks, aiding in the design of traffic flow, and testing models to solve problems are just a few of the tasks possible because of calculus. Simply stated, calculus is a framework to understand, describe, and predict change.

ECC’s math faculty members know it helps to be innovative when teaching calculus, because many students are intimidated by it.

Kristen Campbell, assistant professor of mathematics, pursued a department-wide effort to raise student confidence and reduce achievement gaps. She researched best practices, including the Integration Bee at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then launched a similar version at ECC.

The ECC Integration Contest is an outside-the-class learning event where students compete head-to-head in timed rounds for correct solutions. “Together, students gain proficiency in problem-solving while improving their skills in critical thinking, reasoning, and strategy,” said Ken Beynon, assistant professor of mathematics and current contest lead organizer.

“Stable funding from the ECC Foundation Resources for Excellence Mini-Grant created the opportunity for the contest to grow under Ken’s leadership,” Kristen remarked. Funding for event costs and student incentives helped to attract nearly double the number of participants and increased involvement.

ECC Foundation scholarship recipient Pietrek Kubasak won first place in the fall of 2017. “I entered the contest because I love math, but winning an iPad® was a great reward,” said Pietrek.

Celebrating the pursuit of academic excellence and rewarding success positively affects the culture and reputation of ECC. Kristen recalled, “Past winners earned prestigious internships at Argonne National Laboratory and the National Security Administration. Another transferred to University of California, Los Angeles with a full scholarship.”

Participation and meaningful student impacts continue to grow. The Integration Contest is proof of the absolute value of this and other ECC Foundation Resources for Excellence Mini-Grants.