Nearly 300 11th grade girls from the Capital Region, New York state, and across New England participated in Rensselaer’s “Design Your Future Day” (DYFD) program April 19. The event is designed to engage students in activities to inform and excite them about career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) disciplines, and architecture.
“According to a January 2008 population survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 46 percent of the civilian labor force that is 20 years old or older are women,” said Barbara Ruel, director of Rensselaer’s Diversity and Women in Engineering programs and coordinator of the day’s events. “Yet the most recent data from a National Science Foundation study in 2003 indicated that only 11 percent of all engineers in the labor force were women.”
“Rensselaer is working to change that,” Ruel added. “Design Your Future Day gives young women the opportunity to explore intellectually stimulating and exciting careers in math, science, technology, and engineering and to meet young women like them who have already chosen to pursue such careers.”
Some participating local high schools included Albany, Amsterdam, East Greenbush, Colonie, Saratoga Springs, and Bethlehem. Students from upstate New York, New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont attended the event.
The event was hosted by Rensselaer’s School of Engineering and sponsored by General Motors, Lockheed Martin, and the Gene Haas Foundation.
The 12th annual program kicked off with a welcome address by Danielle Desalu ’01, who serves as a mobility systems engineer for Cisco Systems’ Federal Channels Organization based in Herndon, Va. In her current position, Desalu designs, validates, implements, and trains customers on wireless technologies that provide business solutions for organizations worldwide. As an advocate who encourages and challenges young women to investigate and pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology, she has assisted in the development of the “IT Rocks” campaign, a program launched by Cisco Systems to promote careers in the field for high school and middle school students. Desalu shared her personal stories and aspirations, and the lessons learned in college and since college about excellence, leadership, and persistence.
The program also featured a panel discussion with Rensselaer alumni and undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, the program included 13 workshops led by Rensselaer faculty, staff, and graduate students on a range of topics including: nanomaterials science and engineering; architectural modeling and design; embedded control systems; the design, manufacture and use of medical devices, prosthetic limbs, tissues and organs; building electrical circuits; and manufacturing candy boxes, among others.
Since its inception, more than 3,000 female students have participated in the DYFD program.
For more information and to view the 2008 Design Your Future Day program, go to www.eng.rpi.edu/dyfd/.
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