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, other parts of New York state, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, and across New England will participate in the
“Design Your Future Day (DYFD)” program at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, April 21. 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, women made up 14 percent of the science workforce and 12
percent of the engineering labor force.
“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
Some participating local high schools include Albany High,
Ballston Spa, Bethlehem Central, Broadalbin-Perth, Colonie,
Central, Columbia, Doane Stuart, Emma Willard, Glens Falls,
Guilderland, Lansingburgh, Mohonasen, Saratoga Springs,
Schenectady, Schoharie Central, and Troy.
Fifty-seven percent of the visiting students are from the
state of New York, including Great Neck, Brooklyn, and Glens
Falls. Schools from New England make up 39 percent and the
remaining schools are from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The event will take place on the Rensselaer campus from 9
a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Darrin Communications Center and other
campus locations. The event is hosted and sponsored by
Rensselaer School of Engineering. Additional sponsors include
BAE Systems and the Gene Haas Foundation.
The 15th annual program will kick off at 9:45 a.m., with a
welcome address by Rachel Gitajn, class of 2006, who was a
double major in mechanical engineering and product design.
Gitajn is a project engineer for Burton Snowboards, based in
Burlington, Vt. During her junior year at Rensselaer, Gitajn
applied for an engineering internship with Burton Snowboards,
and spent the summer working with the company’s engineering and
R&D team. Following graduation, she was offered a position
with the company.
Combining her passions and technical interests has always
come naturally to Gitajn. As a high school student in
Rockville, Md., her love of art and creativity was equally
reflected in her physics projects and her paintings.
While at Rensselaer, the Product Design program appealed to
Gitajn as a unique opportunity to apply creativity, as well as
a social and environmental context, to her engineering
studies. Even with a rigorous workload, she always made
time to pursue her passions. Gitajn played club sports, chaired
the Women’s Mentoring Program, and also bought a season’s pass
so she could snowboard regularly at Stratton Mountain in
At Burton Snowboards, Gitajn says that she has found herself
at home among a team of passionate engineers and innovators who
strike a balance between challenging work and an active life in
In addition, Gitajn has brought her passion for mentoring to
Burton, founding the Burton Women’s Mentoring Network in
2007. She is also active in Burton’s employee
environmental group, leading their alternative commuting
initiatives. Outside of work, Gitajn serves as section
representative for her local Society of Women Engineers chapter
and e-mentors collegiate engineering students. In her
remaining leisure time, Gitajn can be found snowboarding,
playing ice hockey, mountain biking, playing bike polo, or
hosting her weekly radio show.
As the keynote speaker, Gitajn will share her personal
stories and aspirations, and the lessons learned in college and
after college about excellence, leadership, persistence, and
how she fused her personal creativity and interests in a
professional career path.
The program will also feature a panel discussion by
undergraduate scholars and alumnae, and 15 workshops led by
Rensselaer graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumnae. They
include: materials science and nanotechnology; safety in the
use of radiation for imaging and radiotherapy; smart lighting;
embedded control systems; how to harness electricity to make a
wind farm; the design and manufacture of biomedical devices,
engineered tissues, and artificial organs; natural and
synthetic polymers and their application; industrial and
management engineering; protecting human safety with robots;
The program also 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 how universities are
preparing students for the 21st century workforce, how women
are thriving on a male-dominated campus, and why women are
choosing to pursue 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
such as product design engineers, systems design engineers,
business analysts and consultants, mechanical and aeronautical
engineers, medical researchers, biomedical device engineers,
doctors, dentists, patent attorneys, architects, and officers
in the military.
Design Your Future Day is part of a larger effort at
Rensselaer 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 disciplines.
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 p.m.
* Peek Inside the Exciting World of Polymers: Center
for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, room
Students will learn the differences between natural and
synthetic polymers, and experiment with the properties of these
smart materials, as well as discover how they are applied in
cosmetics and regenerative medicine.
* 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.
*Minimizing Suffering After Catastrophic Disasters:
Low Center for Industrial Innovation, room 3130
Students will explore how to tackle the challenge of
delivering life-saving supplies to a site impacted by a
catastrophic disaster, and gain insight about the definition of
procedures and techniques to ensure an expedient response.
* Engineering at Rensselaer Is Sweet: Advanced
Manufacturing Lab, Low Annex, room 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.
* Safety in the Use of Radiation for Imaging and
Radiotherapy: Low Center Annex, room 4040
Nuclear engineers design and apply nuclear technologies for
medical uses such as imaging and treatment of cancer. Students
will learn how ionizing radiation such as X-rays can create an
image of the human body, and “virtual patient” research at
Rensselaer is helping to ensure patient safety.
* Harness the Wind & Generate Electricity:
Jonsson Engineering Center, room 3117
Students will learn how to use meteorological data,
information about the electrical grid, wind turbine capacity,
cost, and pricing estimates to design their own wind farm.
For more information and to view the 2012 Design Your Future
Day program, go to: http://www.eng.rpi.edu/dyfd/.
Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050