Dayton student attends Virtual Tapia Camps at Rice University courtesy of ExxonMobil

A student’s design for the ‘heatsink’ engineering challenge, where campers at the Tapia Center’s virtual workshops build a device to melt an ice cube as fast as possible using only copper, aluminum foil, and nuts and bolts. The purpose of the challenge is to simulate how a computer processor works to keep a computer from overheating.

This summer, one select student from Dayton ISD, Noe Trujillo from Dayton High School, received a scholarship from ExxonMobil to attend a unique virtual workshop hosted by The Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity at Rice University.

In total, more than 200 students and 150 teachers from across Texas and beyond completed the online programs, which promote project-based learning.

Like many organizations, the Tapia Center transitioned its prestigious on-campus summer programming to virtual experiences for the safety of all participants and instructors.

The online STEM Camp for 8th-12th graders features a five-day curriculum on science, technology, engineering and mathematics aimed at building problem solving and communications skills. Using materials that are mailed to participants after registration, campers are challenged to design their own heatsink, simulating the process through which heat is transferred away from the processor in a computer to keep the device from overheating. Led by Rice professors and experienced facilitators, the program follows a 4:1 student-facilitator ratio.

“It’s crucial now more than ever that students and educators feel prepared with the tools and skills needed to succeed in changing learning environments,” said Marisela Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Tapia Center. “Our programs are designed to teach students how to solve problems and improve communication skills, which are both integral parts of navigating this challenging landscape.”

For information on the Tapia Center’s fall programming, visit

Other examples of student designs for the ‘heatsink’ engineering challenge.

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