Inside Rensselaer
* Black Family  Technology Awareness DayRensselaer Hosts 11th Annual Black Family  Technology Awareness Day

Rensselaer Hosts 11th Annual Black Family Technology Awareness Day
More than 1,000 area students and their families came to Rensselaer to participate in the 11th annual Black Family Technology Awareness Day on Feb. 7. The event, designed to spur young people’s interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and the arts, was hosted by the Office of Institute Diversity and the Office of Academic Outreach Programs. Black Family Technology Awareness Day is part of a nationally celebrated week of the same name. The theme for 2009 was “The World Is Mine.”

“We need to prepare today’s students for the 21st century economy with a technological focus in mind,” said Kim Scalzo, director of academic outreach programs. “Effectively using technology in the 21st century is important for full participation in America’s economic, political, and social life. The event provides students of all ages, particularly minorities who are underrepresented in the fields, with the programs and mentoring opportunities that will inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.” 

The program featured more than 20 workshops —led by Rensselaer professors, students, and community organizations — that included exploring geometry in African designs, making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, using LEGO building kits to build models of simple machines, making a gooey, sticky flubber, and learning how to use basic forensic science techniques, among others. Also, workshops offering tips on preparing for the college admissions and scholarship process were available for students and their families.

Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson has long warned of what she has called a “Quiet Crisis” in America — the threat to the capacity of the United States to innovate due to reduced support for research and the looming shortage in the nation’s STEM workforce. The impending workforce shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon in the STEM fields, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them. 

Black Family Technology Awareness Day is part of Rensselaer’s larger effort to interest area young people and their families in pursuing occupations in the fields of science and engineering. Other “pipeline” programs include: Design Your Future Day, to engage young girls in science and engineering studies and professions; Exploring Engineering Day, to spark the interest of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in science, technology, and engineering; and Rensselaer’s Molecularium™ project, to teach young children about the smallest forms of matter.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 3, March 13, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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