Inside Rensselaer
Volume 7, No. 6, March 29, 2013

Exploring Engineering Day

Annual event offers young adults a glimpse into engineering
and science careers

In celebration of National Engineers Week, the School of Engineering hosted its annual Exploring Engineering Day Saturday, Feb. 16. Gardens on Your Roof, Homemade Rockets, Light Up Your Electric Zoo, Potato Power, Safe Shipping Designs, Jello Microfluidics, and Growing Human Tissue were just a few of the engineering activities offered. More than 380 elementary school students in grades 3 to 6 and 310 parents explored several activities as part of the program.


“Exploring Engineering Day activities are designed to spark the interest of young children in engineering and computer science through hands-on exploration,” said Barbara Ruel, director of diversity and women in engineering programs in the School of Engineering and program director for Exploring Engineering Day.

“Parents also engage in hands-on activities to learn about engineering and they receive tips from an engineering student panel about exploratory activities for children that nurture interest in science, design, and innovation,” Ruel added. “Families leave with take-home activities to encourage continuing exploration at home. Over the past 10 years, the program has increased in both size and diversity.”

The program included children from Girls Inc., Boy and Girl Scouts organizations, local area private and public schools, and home-schooled children. This year 49 percent of the students were young girls.

Sixteen workshops were offered, all led by engineering undergraduate and graduate students who are members of engineering professional societies and clubs at Rensselaer. Ruel also noted that the program introduces students and their families to diverse college student role models who are pursuing degrees in engineering and computer science, and leading the activities as a way to engage with the children.

In addition, parents had an opportunity to delve into the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines by participating in any three of eight parent activities that were offered. Sample sessions included: Clean and Safe Storage, Producing Wind Energy, and Fast and Safe Airplanes.

In addition, staff from the Musuem of Science and Innovation (miSci), formerly the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium, were on hand to lead pre-program activities for the children and their parents.

The program is coordinated by the Rensselaer chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), with support from several faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and professional staff in the School of Engineering. Elisabeth Posthill ’14, SWE engineering event director and a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, and Jessica Stieglitz ’15, SWE assistant event director who is majoring in chemical engineering, coordinated this year’s event.

The students also worked with Ruel to co-write a grant that will allow the Exploring Engineering Day program to be delivered at the miSci during the month of April. The program was made possible by a grant from the national Society of Women Engineers and ExxonMobil. To support the effort, a team of Rensselaer student organizations will work alongside area high school students that they have mentored to deliver a series of engineering activities. The program will be held every Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Also, in an effort to provide parents with information about how to encourage and support their children’s curiosity and interest in STEM disciplines, parents received online and regional resource information regarding programs offered at Rensselaer and other area organizations, along with tips on academic preparation related to the fields of engineering and computer science. Students received take-home activities.

For more information regarding Exploring Engineering Day at miSci, visit

Photos by Kevin (Yiming) Chen and Devin M. Nguyen

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 7, Number 6, March 29, 2013
©2013 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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