It’s Not Just for Boys: Girls Are Into Math and Science Too
Area High School Girls Will Explore High-Tech
Careers as part of Annual “Design Your Future Day” Program at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
More than 200 10th and 11th grade girls from the Capital
Region, New York state, and across New England will participate
in the “Design Your Future Day” (DYFD) program at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, April 16. The annual event
is designed to engage students in activities to inform and
excite them about degree programs and career opportunities in
science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in
2010 women comprised 47 percent of the civilian labor force
that is 20 years old or older,” said Barbara Ruel, director of
Diversity and Women in Engineering Programs at Rensselaer, and
program director of the day’s events. “Yet the most current
data from the National Science Foundation indicates that
in 2006 only 12 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 degrees and careers in
math, science, technology, and engineering and to meet young
women like them who have already chosen to pursue such
Participating local high schools include Albany, Bethlehem
Central, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Columbia, Emma Willard,
Glens Falls, Guilderland, Hudson Falls, Lansingburgh,
Middletown, Schenectady, Schuylerville, Scotia-Glenville, and
Troy. Sixty-eight percent of the visiting students are
from the state of New York, including Saranac Lake and
Utica. The remaining 32 percent are from Connecticut,
Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
The event will take place from 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the
Darrin Communications Center and other campus locations. The
event is hosted and sponsored by Rensselaer’s School of
Engineering. Additional sponsors include Pratt & Whitney
and BAE Systems.
The 15th annual program will kick off with a welcome address
by Laura Wontrop, Class of 2008, an advanced operations
engineer for General Motors. Following graduation, Wontrop
began working for General Motors, where her first assignment
was to present customer needs to global program development
teams. She is currently working on a temporary assignment
where she meets with teams from across the world to gather data
to develop a computer model that would be capable of
determining the number of employees optimally required to
produce all GM vehicles.
While at Rensselaer, Wontrop was the first female
undergraduate to lead a student team from the Society of
Automotive Engineers (SAE) to design, build, and race a
formula-styled race car in competition. She also raised $30,000
for her team to compete against 120 other universities to earn
a top 10 finish in Michigan and a top 20 finish in
Wontrop is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the
University of Michigan in the Global Automotive and
Manufacturing Engineering program. In her free time, she
participates in high-performance driving events and enjoys
exploring Michigan’s natural and historical resources. Wontrop
will share her personal stories and aspirations, and the
lessons learned in college and after college about excellence,
leadership, and persistence.
The program will also feature a panel discussion by
undergraduate scholars, and 14 workshops led by Rensselaer
undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. They
include: materials science and engineering; lighting; embedded
control systems; the design, manufacture, and use of medical
devices, prosthetic limbs, tissues, and organs; art and games
with computer animation; nuclear engineering; intellectual
property and patent law; and manufacturing.
The program provides a parallel schedule for parents, and
includes an interactive discussion with representatives from
Admissions and Financial Aid, the Center for Career and
Professional Development, the Office of the First-Year
Experience, the Dean of Students Office, and Residence Life.
During these sessions, parents will learn about high-tech
careers, the changing college classroom, and the importance of
encouraging students to consider STEM careers.
Since its inception, more than 3,000 female students have
participated in the Design Your Future Day program. In
addition, Rensselaer graduates have gone on to pursue careers
as product design engineers, systems design engineers, business
analysts and consultants, mechanical and aeronautical
engineers, medical researchers, biomedical device engineers,
doctors, patent attorneys, architects, and Naval officers.
Design Your Future Day is part of Rensselaer’s larger effort
to engage young people in science and engineering studies and
professions. Other “pipeline” programs include: Black Family
Technology Awareness Day, to interest area young people and
their families in pursuing occupations in the fields of science
and engineering; and Exploring Engineering Day, to spark the
interest of scouts and other children, ages 9 to 12, in STEM
Sample Design Your Future Day workshops that will be
offered from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., and from 1:15 to 2:15
* It’s Hot Being Nano: Jonsson Engineering Center,
Students will explore the exciting field of nanomaterials.
During the session, the group will talk about heat at the
nano-scale level and what supercomputers and cancer have in
common. Students will also heat up particles of different sizes
and determine which are the hottest.
* Engineering at Rensselaer is Sweet: Advanced
Manufacturing Lab, CII 1027
Students will learn how to assemble a box of candy in the
Advanced Manufacturing Lab and learn the different processes
including robotics and automation, plastic injection molding,
3-D printing, and water-jet cutting.
* Go Bananas Over Nuclear: Low Center, room
3051 and 3045
More than 20 percent of the U.S. energy supply is nuclear.
Students will learn about surprising natural radiation sources
and nuclear systems that power our lives with zero green house
* The Body Bag: Sage, room 2112
Students will explore how medical devices, prosthetic limbs,
tissues, and organs are designed, manufactured, and used with
the help of interactive anatomy software and models.
* Uncovering the Secrets of Lighting: Jonsson
Engineering Center, room 4201
Through interactive experiments and demonstrations, students
will see the surprising ways that we use light in our lives.
Students will also learn how engineers and scientists are
exploring new ways in which the colorful world of light can
impact our health, happiness, and safety while saving energy
and protecting the environment.
* Whodunit? The Chemistry of Crime Scenes, Walker
Laboratory, room 5113
Can you crack the crime? Students will learn how forensic
chemistry is used to help solve crimes by gathering and
analyzing evidence from a simulated classroom crime scene.
* What’s in Your Water: Center for Biotechnology and
Interdisciplinary Studies, Bruggeman Conference
Students will study the bacterium Vibrio cholerae,
the agent of the disease cholera, and learn how the bacteria
can spread from aquatic environments to the human
* Materials Science & Nanotechnology: Walker
Laboratory, room 6213 and 6113
Students will explore the exciting field of nanomaterials to
see why size matters and how it affects our lives. Students
will also participate in hands-on experiments that will show
how nanomaterials are used for different applications,
including drug delivery and painting. A final experiment will
examine the similarities between nanoparticles, gemstones, and
For more information and to view the 2011 Design Your Future
Day program, go to: http://www.eng.rpi.edu/dyfd/.
Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050