New orientation program, BUILD, debuts at Camp Yale
BUILD, a collaborative pilot orientation program between the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, launched this fall as part of Camp Yale, Yale College’s newly redesigned orientation program .
Courtesy of Vincent Wilczynski
Camp Yale, the newly revamped freshman orientation program, has opened doors for freshmen interested in exploring science and engineering at Yale through the BUILD pilot program.
This fall, BUILD debuted as a collaboration between the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design. Twenty new freshmen were selected by the Yale College Dean’s Office to attend the inaugural session. Former Yale College Dean Marvin Chun and Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd suggested the idea for the program.
“We jumped at the chance to introduce more students to STEM opportunities on campus,” said Vincent Wilczynski, associate dean of SEAS and director of the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, or CEID.
Chun and Boyd first contacted SEAS and CEID to inquire about the possibility of implementing this program.
The program is a way to introduce first years to the “new culture of engineering and applied science on the Yale campus,” Wilczynski said. The purpose of the orientation was for students to explore a new environment and bond throughout the experience, added Y. Richard Yang, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Computer Science and professor. computer science and electrical engineering.
Yang compared BUILD to FOOT, a popular and well-established orientation program offered to first years during Camp Yale.
“Similar to exploring a natural environment in FOOT, BUILD was about exploring a new environment in the world of computing and engineering, where people build things,” Yang said.
As part of the program, the students traveled to New York, where they attended information sessions led by Yale alumni at three software companies.
Students visited Security Scorecard, a digital forensics company co-founded by Yale graduate Aleksandr Yampolskiy GRD ’06; Simon’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that designs research software; and Google.
“The continued involvement of Yale alumni and their commitment to interacting with students speaks to the alumni’s engagement with the campus community,” Wilczynski said.
These companies were intentionally chosen to expose students to various applications of the “building process” in computer science and engineering, according to Yang. Many students agreed that the trip to New York was “the highlight” of the program. Lilia Chatalbasheva ’26 said she particularly enjoyed the candid discussion about the importance of diversity, inclusion and women in STEM.
The program was aimed at students who had little or no computer experience, Yang said. Gloria Kim ’26 said that although she has no coding or engineering background and is not a computer science or engineering major, she liked the STEM focus of the program.
“I can see myself coming back to CEID,” Kim said.
Students explored the construction of physical objects at CEID while building virtual hardware using resources from the computer science department. In collaboration with Scott Petersen, lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, the students explored the links between computing and music.
Other BUILD program activities included Scratch programming and exploring data visualization.
“The goal of this program was to expose students to the applications and connections that computing has with different humanities disciplines like music and art,” Yang said.
The program highlighted how computer science and engineering can connect with aspects of other disciplines in the humanities or social sciences that students might be interested in studying at Yale. Reva Tagare ’26 enjoyed “tasting the many flavors of STEM”.
In addition to the trip to New York and collaborative building projects, the students participated in workshop activities led by Jay Lim and Cody Murphey, both lecturers in the computer science department. Lim and Murphey were instrumental in facilitating the program, Yang said. One of the students’ favorites was the “Physics of Bubbles” workshop given by CEID Principal Investigator and Design Mentor Larry Wilen.
BUILD also introduced students to the vast STEM resources they could access on campus. The students became certified members of CEID, said Erin Murray ’26, which inspired many to return to the center.
“I’m starting to think about projects I might want to start on my own [at the CEID]said Ishan Narra ’26.
Outside of workshops and meetings with alumni, students in the BUILD program have formed a “nice, tight-knit community,” according to Fiza Shakeel ’26. Anjal Jain ’26 echoed that sentiment, calling the BUILD program “the highlight” of his Yale experience so far. The community created by faculty and student leaders eased the “anxiety [that] many of us lived through our recent move to New Haven,” Carl Geiselhart ’26 wrote in an email to The News.
However, some students had suggestions on how BUILD could improve in the future. Harrison Copp ’26 said BUILD had less “community building” than other orientation programs because while students collaborated on projects, they didn’t necessarily know each other on a “deeper level” by sharing stories like “hometowns”, which are traditions of the more established FOOT and FOCUS orientation programs.
“I have often been told that Yale is weaker [than peer institutions] on the engineering side,” Noah Dee ’26 wrote in an email to The News. “While that may be true, the BUILD program certainly reassures me that Yale recognizes the need to move forward in these areas.”
Whether Camp Yale will offer the BUILD program as part of its orientation programs next year has yet to be determined by the Yale College Dean’s Office, but Yang and Wilczynski said they hope expand BUILD in the future.
CEID is located at 15 Prospect St.