Last month, 24 middle school girls from the Schenectady City School District took part in a summer camp on campus, designed to spur an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and initiate mentoring relationships with women in STEM careers. The week long learning program, called GE Girls @ Rensselaer, is sponsored by the GE Women’s Network in collaboration with Rensselaer.
From July 22 to 26, the eighth-grade students connected with Rensselaer faculty and GE women to participate in a series of projects. Students were nominated for the program by their teachers and principals.
“Over the last two years, the program has worked with area teachers,
GE scientists and engineers who serve as mentors, and students and faculty from Rensselaer
who have introduced and inspired the girls to have a lifelong love of discovery and innovation in the STEM fields.”
— Cynthia Smith
Daily lessons focused on energy, construction, programming, electronics, and chemistry. During the program, the girls had the opportunity to design a computerized game, build a flashlight, learn the chemistry behind lip gloss, make ice cream, and more. In addition, each student also got the chance to work with accomplished female mentors from the GE Women’s Network, primarily with engineering or technology backgrounds, and had the opportunity to tour the Rensselaer campus.
Since the central theme of the camp focused on turbines, students also worked in teams to build their own wind turbines and were able to measure the current generated, and they had the opportunity to visit the GE turbine facility in Schenectady. “Over the last two years, the program has worked with area teachers, GE scientists and engineers who serve as mentors, and students and faculty from Rensselaer who have introduced and inspired the girls to have a lifelong love of discovery and innovation in the STEM fields,” said Cynthia Smith, assistant dean of students and director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships at Rensselaer.
The program was organized by Kylie Marine, GE Corporate human resources manager for the Schenectady campus, and Chrissy Swanson, marketing manager for GE Power & Water.
“The girls were engaged the entire week and had such a positive attitude,” said Marine. “It was a great experience for the girls to interact with our GE talent and learn more about the possibilities for their future career choices. We want girls to feel that pursuing careers in STEM is achievable and a great opportunity for their future.”
Encouraging young girls to take an interest in science and technology is a top priority for GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt. He initiated the program in pilot form in 2011 through the GE Women’s Network at MIT. This year, the company again awarded a $25,000 grant to fund the program in the Capital Region, leveraging Rensselaer as the local university partner.
“It is critically important to excite all young people about STEM, and to nurture and develop their natural curiosity about the world around them,” Smith said. “GE Girls @ Rensselaer is an important program for the Capital Region. It helps set young girls on a path to one day study at a world-class university like Rensselaer and secure a job at a technology leader like GE.”
“We see that young girls are interested in STEM, but when it comes time to pursue a degree in college, or choose a career path, the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math are often not considered,” said Joanne Kugler, chief information officer, GE Power and Water and executive champion for the global GE Women’s Network. “Many girls express that they don’t know a lot about STEM careers and opportunities. Through programs like this we can help change that. We can expose girls, at a young age, to leaders in these fields in hopes of making a lasting impression.”