Teddy Mullet (left) and Freddy Vazquez have recently enrolled in USFSM's Bridge to Engineering program, a partnership with USF in Tampa.

‘Bridge to Engineering’ a welcome option for new USFSM students

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: July 21, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 21, 2016) One is a valedictorian with a penchant for technology. The other has been fascinated by all things mechanical “as long as I can remember.”

Federico Vazquez, who goes by Freddy, says he’s been attracted to gadgets and understanding how they work since childhood.

“My dad’s a civil engineer and my grandfather was a mechanic,” he says. “I guess it runs in the family.”

Theodore “Teddy” Mullet, valedictorian at Sarasota Christian High School this past spring, says he always “liked little gadgets.”

“My thing was I would see something in a store and instead of buying it, I would try to make it myself,” said Mullet, adding he made an infrared laser two years ago.

The two don’t know each other and graduated from different high schools – Vazquez is a product of Lakewood Ranch High in Manatee County – but they share one thing: They’re among a half-dozen students recently accepted into USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Bridge to Engineering program.

The Bridge program, set to launch this fall, is a partnership between USF Sarasota-Manatee and USF’s College of Engineering in Tampa in which students take general education courses at USFSM their first two years then transfer to USF in Tampa to finish their degrees.

The program supports USFSM’s goal under its strategic plan to expand the campus’ science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to meet evolving workforce needs of local and regional communities.

It also offers a welcome option to students looking to stay local while working toward their degrees.

Mullet said he was eyeing engineering programs around the state but hoped to enroll at USFSM where he could commute from home and save on tuition and fees. The Bridge program, announced this past spring, allows him to do that until engineering classes begin his junior year.

“I was looking at schools all around Florida and some in Georgia but I wanted to stay close to home,” he said. “Then near the end of my senior year my guidance counselor said USFSM was starting this program. … I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Vazquez related a similar experience. He was eyeing colleges in Florida but learned about the Bridge program late in his senior year. He applied immediately and was accepted.

“My parents were pretty ecstatic,” he said.

The Bridge program focuses on mechanical engineering for now but is expected to expand into other engineering degree studies, including computer engineering, civil engineering and electrical engineering. As it grows, admissions officials expect many more students to enter the program.

Prospective students can learn about the Bridge to Engineering at: http://usfsm.edu/programs/mechanical-engineering/

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