Rensselaer Hosts "Exploring Engineering Day" for Local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

February 27, 2006

Rensselaer Hosts "Exploring Engineering Day" for Local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

Troy, N.Y. — In celebration of National Engineers Week 2006, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hosted a day of hands-on engineering activities Feb. 25 for more than 250 area Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. The day’s events were organized and run by Rensselaer undergraduate and graduate engineering students.

“Exploring Engineering Day activities are designed to excite children about science and technology, and encourage the participants to consider pursuing careers in engineering,” said Barbara Ruel, director of Rensselaer’s Women in Engineering programs and coordinator of Exploring Engineering Day. “Over the past five years, the program has increased in both size and diversity. This year, children participated in a variety of hands-on activities that covered a wide range of disciplines, including electrical, aeronautical, and materials engineering.”

Featured activities included “Gak,” during which participants combined materials to witness chemical reactions and analyze material properties; “Cup Drop,” during which participants designed and built parachute devices to support a cup of water when it hits the ground; and “LEGO Robotics,” during which teams of young people built and programmed LEGO MINDSTORMS™ robots.

Four student organizations on Rensselaer’s campus collaborated to organize and run Exploring Engineering Day: the School of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Committee, the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society for Black Engineers, and the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Exploring Engineering Day was part of a larger initiative taking place across the country. National Engineers Week was Feb. 19-25, and this year’s national celebration was co-sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers. A major focus was on getting girls excited about pursuing careers in engineering, and to that end, “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” mobilized thousands of women engineers — with support from their male counterparts — to mentor and share firsthand experiences of engineering to more than one million girls and young women across the country. (http://www.eweek.org/site/News/Eweek/girlsday.shtml)

Exploring Engineering Day is also part of Rensselaer’s effort to get young people excited about science and technology, spearheaded by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, a national leader in science pipeline issues. According to President Jackson, there is a “Quiet Crisis” building in the United States — a crisis that could jeopardize the nation’s pre-eminence and well-being. The crisis stems from the gap between the nation’s growing need for scientists, engineers, and other technically skilled workers, and its production of them. President Jackson notes that closing this gap will require a national commitment to develop more of the talent of all our citizens, especially the underrepresented majority — the women, minorities, and persons with disabilities who comprise a disproportionately small part of the nation’s science, engineering, and technology workforce.

Other Rensselaer outreach programs include Black Family Technology Awareness Day, which interests area young people and their families in pursuing occupations in the fields of science and engineering; Design Your Future Day, at which 11th-grade women take part in activities aimed at focusing them on careers in science, technology, and engineering; and Rensselaer’s Molecularium™ project, an exciting new animation, in a planetarium setting, created to spark children’s interest in atoms and molecules.

Contact: Jason Gorss
Phone: (518) 276-6098
E-mail: gorssj@rpi.edu

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.