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WPI Helps Fill the Pipeline

The pipeline that delivers bright, talented men and women into the technical professions is a porous one. It begins in elementary school, filled with bright youngsters of both genders and all ethnic groups. It ends in college with a product that is decidedly white and male. Along the way, there are numerous opportunities to reach out to girls, underrepresented minorities and others who may leave the pipeline too early (as well as programs that reach out to their teachers and guidance counselors) to help them see that science, mathematics and engineering can be fun and exciting subjects, and that careers in these fields can be rewarding and personally satisfying.

More than 40 WPI programs target nearly every critical point along the pipeline. We featured a few in the pages of Transformations. Below you will find descriptions of a number of others. In addition to these, WPI's Academic Advising, Admissions, Diversity and Women's Programs, and Minority Affairs offices offer a number of other initiatives that reach out to those who might otherwise miss out on opportunities to prepare for careers in the quantitative professions.

WPI Programs That Target Kids in Pre-K Through Grade 6

Programs for Girls*

Bring Your Child to Work Day: Each spring, children and grandchildren of WPI employees spend a morning learning about their parents' and grandparents' jobs. In the afternoon, in single-sex groups, they take part in workshops on robotics and hands-on science. The opportunity for girls to learn about science and engineering, on their own, without the negative peer influence that occurs in a co-ed setting, helps build their confidence and their interest in quantitative professions.

Programs for Underrepresented Minorities**

Hoop Dreams: This volunteer mentoring program teams more than 100 youngsters from Friendly House who are between the ages of 8 and 13 in Worcester with WPI students, who tutor them in math, science, history and English. The children also learn about science, engineering and computer science by designing and building LEGO robots, and they swim, play basketball and take part in sports clinics. The mix of academics and athletics ensures that the Friendly House children discover that learning is fun and rewarding.

Programs for All Boys and Girls+

FIRST Robot Demonstrations: WPI sponsors a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team at the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI. WPI faculty and students work with Mass Academy students to design and build a new robot each year and to compete against high schools around the country in FIRST competitions. In the off season, WPI takes its robot and students to many schools and other venues to stir up interest in FIRST and to spread the message that science and engineering can be fun and rewarding.

G.L.O.W.S. (Generating Leadership through Outreach Work-Study): G.L.O.W.S. is a Federal work-study program that places work-study students in community service positions. WPI students who participate in the program have taken assignments working with children at the nearby Elm Park Elementary School, at the First Friends Day Care center adjacent to campus, and at the Worcester Art Museum.

Summer Fun Crafts Camp/Summer Sports Camps: In conjunction with the Worcester Center for Crafts, WPI runs a summer crafts camp that includes sessions on everything from soccer to computer studies to theatre to photography. Participants take part in field trips to museums, zoos and other exciting places. WPI also brings hundreds of kids, ages 8 to 17, to campus during the summer for a wide range of sports camps.

WPI Programs That Target Kids in Grades 7-9

Programs for Girls*

Alumni Daughters Program: This biannual event, which takes place during Homecoming weekend, engages up to 40 daughters of alumni who are in middle school in a half day of fun, hands-on activities in engineering and science. Their parents receive guidance on how to encourage their daughters in math and science. Parents and daughters hear from female WPI students about their WPI experience and their career plans for tomorrow.

Camp Reach: This two-week residential program, offered each summer to about 30 girls from Massachusetts about to enter the seventh grade, is designed to generate interest in and excitement about careers in science and engineering. Participants, in teams, complete hands-on design projects for local organizations; the projects demonstrate how engineers use their analytical abilities to solve important problems and improve life for real people--that, in fact, engineering is truly a helping profession. The staff includes middle school teachers and high school students. Semiannual Camp Reach reunions and the opportunity to rejoin the program in high school as a Camp Reach counselor keep campers engaged through grade 12.

GEMS Jr.: This four commuter program provides about 30 middle school girls each summer with hands-on opportunities to explore engineering, math and science. Female WPI students serve as role models. The goal is to keep girls excited about science and math while introducing them to the many career opportunities in engineering, which is presented as a profession that helps people and the environment. GEMS Jr. was sponsored by the Engineering Information Foundation in 2002; it will be co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Academy for Mathematics and Science at WPI in 2003.

Mass. Academy Girls in Science Day: Offered jointly by WPI and the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI, this program nurtures the interest of local girls in the study of science and engineering and encourages them to consider these professions as they consider future careers. Each year, the program hosts girls from a different middle school in Central Massachusetts.

Programs for Underrepresented Minorities**

Strive Jr.: This four-day summer commuter program provides up to 30 African American, Latino and American Indian middle school students with hands-on opportunities to explore engineering, math and science. Current WPI students and faculty from the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science serve as faculty. The goal is to keep these students excited about science and math while introducing them to the many career opportunities available in these fields.

Programs for All Boys and Girls+

FIRST LEGO League Activities: For the second time this year, WPI hosted RoboNautica, a FIRST LEGO League competition, on campus in 2002. Modeled after the national FIRST robotics competitions, the LEGO League engages middle school students in the design of LEGO MindStorms robots. And like its big brother, this LEGO League is designed to marry science and technology with the excitement and passion of athletics to instill in the kids the idea that science and engineering are exciting and creative professions.

FIRST Robot Demonstrations: See description above.

Summer Sports Camps: See description above.

Worcester Community Project Center: Founded in 2000 as part of WPI's global network of student project centers, the Worcester Community Project Center has a particular focus on projects that help government, public interest, charitable and educational organizations do work that improves the quality of life in the city. A number of project teams have worked with the Worcester Public Schools to help with the development of a schoolwide engineering, science and technology curriculum. Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to require schools to teach engineering and technology at all grades.

Worcester Regional Science Fair at the Massachusetts Academy: This science fair for middle schools, sponsored by Massachusetts State Science Fair Inc. is an annual one-day fair for students in grades 6, 7, and 8 attending public, private, parochial or home schools in the area. Participants have the opportunity to pursue an aspect of science in which they are interested and become involved in the scientific process.

Programs That Target Kids in Grades 10-12

Programs for Girls*

Camp Reach Counselors/Reunions: See description under Camp Reach above.

GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Mathematics and Science): This one-week summer residential program brings about 50 high school girls from across the country to campus to explore engineering, math and science and learn why these fields are important and how professionals use their knowledge to help people and change the world. The program is supported by a grant from the Intel Foundation, which helps keep the tuition affordable and provides scholarship assistance.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day: This half-day program for about 40 high school girls lets them explore opportunities within engineering and emphasizes how engineers help people, animals and the environment. In 2002, the GE Women's Forum provided professionals to help with the hands-on activities for this event. Participants and their parents also hear from female WPI students, faculty members and professionals about their experiences in engineering. In 2003, this program will be sponsored by 3M.

Programs for Underrepresented Minorities**

National Engineers Week Celebration: This half-day program introduces up to 40 African American, Latino and American Indian high school students to engineering. In 2002, volunteers from GE's African American and Latino forums helped with the hands-on activities for this event. Participants and their parents heard from WPI students of color and GE professionals about their experiences in engineering.

Strive: This hands-on, residential summer program introduces about 40 African-American, Latino and American Indian high school students to engineering and inspires them to learn more about math and science. The message is that engineers and scientists use what they learn to help people and, perhaps, even to change the world. The program is supported by a grant from the Intel Foundation, which offsets tuition and provides scholarships assistance.

Programs for All Boys and Girls+

FIRST Robotics Team/BattleCry@WPI: FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national program founded by Dean Kamen '73 that engages high school students in a competition modeled after athletic contests. Working with scientists and engineers from industry and academic partners, students design and build robots to complete specific tasks. WPI sponsors a FIRST team at the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI and also hosts an annual post-season competition on campus. Called BattleCry@WPI, the event attracts about 40 teams from around the Northeast.

Frontiers: This two-week summer research and learning experience challenges students to explore the outer limits of knowledge in science, mathematics and engineering. The program is open to qualified secondary school students entering their junior or senior year.

Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science: This is a public high school for students in grades 11 and 12 that provides a challenging curriculum for academically motivated students with an exceptional aptitude for mathematics and science. While it has particular focus on math and science, the academy also maintains a commitment to the study of the humanities. Sophomores currently enrolled in Massachusetts high schools are eligible to apply for admission. Participation by women and minorities is a high priority. During 12th grade, attendees take WPI freshman-level courses.

Road Shows: WPI offers a two-hour introduction to engineering to groups of young women or underrepresented minorities within a two-hour radius of campus. These "road shows" include hands-on projects, an overview of engineering, and interaction with WPI students.

Summer Sports Camps: See description above.

Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair: WPI has hosted the regional science fair for Massachusetts for nearly half a century. More than 150 student projects from 21 area high schools were featured at the 2002 fair. Winners are eligible to participate in the state competition at MIT.

Worcester Community Project Center: See description above.

WPI Dinner With Entrepreneurs Series: Funded by the John and Jeanne Hughes Foundation, the series brings together small groups of entrepreneurs and college and high school students to talk about entrepreneurship in a relaxed dinner environment.

WPI Invitational Mathematics Meet: Observing its 15th anniversary in 2002, this annual meet brings teams of "mathaletes" from high schools around Massachusetts to complete a demanding mathematics test based on the secondary mathematics curriculum up to, but not including, calculus. The top member of each team receives a $1,000 scholarship to attend WPI; the other members of the top nine teams receive scholarships ranging from $1,000 scholarships for the top three teams to $500 for teams 7 to 9.

Programs For K-12 Teachers and Guidance Counselors

Camp Reach Teachers: Three middle school teachers from Worcester County work with the campers in WPI's Camp Reach program for girls (see above). They participate in staff training to become familiar with the engineering design process as it is taught to campers, and they are assigned to work with one team of 10 campers to work on an engineering design project. Teachers find that they can tie aspects of the project to the math and science curricula that the girls have just had, and that they can employ many of the techniques used for the engineering design project during their regular school year activities.

Engineering Pipeline Collaborative: Massachusetts is the first state to require that engineering be taught at all grade levels in the public schools. The State Board of Education has approved science and technology curriculum guidelines designed to enable all students to see the relevance of science, mathematics and technology to today's world and, ultimately, to ease the critical need for engineers within the commonwealth, the nation and the world. WPI is helping Worcester shape its vision for the program model through this collaborative, a coalition of colleges, universities and businesses established with a start-up grant from the University of Massachusetts/Raytheon K-16 Engineering Collaborative and a "career majors" grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education. WPI administrators and faculty are providing curricular and technical support for new and future engineering courses at nearby Doherty High School, and student project teams are helping develop curricular modules for a pre-engineering program at Doherty (see Worcester Community Project Center, above).

COUNT (Counselor Outreach to Underrepresented students in Engineering and Technology): COUNT encompasses a variety of activities designed to help high school guidance counselors reach out to young women and students of color to encourage them in science, math and engineering. Activities include presentations at national and regional conferences for counselors and half-day workshops at WPI for local counselors and college pipeline advisors. The program, a response to evidence that counselors continue to discourage female and underrepresented minority students from pursuing studies in math, science and engineering, seeks to educate guidance counselors about the rich opportunities available to women and students of color in these fields.

Massachusetts Academy Programs: The Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI invites teachers from schools across the state to serve as visiting scholars. During their year-long appointment, the scholars teach as part of the academy faculty and help shape the curriculum. They then return to their own schools with new knowledge and new skills that they can use to bring about positive change. The academy also offers periodic workshops and summer institutes for middle-school and high-school teachers that bring the latest ideas about teaching and learning to a wide audience. The academy is also an active member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology, the nation's foremost alliance of schools dedicated to transforming mathematics, science and technology education.

Mathematics in Industry Institute: The goal of this program is to prepare middle school and high school teachers to motivate women and underrepresented minorities to take advanced mathematics courses while in high school and to pursue careers in mathematics, engineering, information technology, finance and economics. In addition to working on real industrial projects and developing versions of industrial projects for their own classes, participants hear about new directions in high school math curricula, how colleges are introducing applications of real-world mathematics, the ways real applications can motivate students, and the many career paths that are open to students well-trained in mathematics. Participants are charged with bringing what they learn back to their schools and to train other teachers. The pilot summer workshop was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. The 2002 summer workshop was funded by a grant from the GE Fund.

Master of Mathematics for Educators: This program enables primary, secondary and junior college mathematics instructors to get an advanced degree that relates to their career without having to take time off from teaching. The curriculum helps teachers stay current with new state requirements, the changing needs of students and new teaching techniques (such as group learning and computer-assisted learning). Under new Massachusetts teacher licensing laws, WPI is able to grant the Professional License to MME graduates who begin the program with Advanced Provisional Standing.

Science Education for the New Millennium: WPI offers several programs a year for high school educators and guidance counselors at locations in New England, New York and other areas of the country. The evening events feature a guest speaker who talks about issues in science and math education or exciting new areas of technology (Shelia Tobias, nationally recognized authority on science and mathematics education, has spoken at several events). Participants also learn about WPI's approach to technological education.

TeachScheme! Project / Workshops: This is a multi-university effort to improve introductory computing curricula. The program, launched at Rice University in 1996, was a response to increasing numbers of students starting college with weak computer skills. In the summers of 2001 and 2002, Kathi Fisler, WPI assistant professor of computer science, who has been a TeachScheme! Instructor since 1997, presented a TeachScheme! workshop at Brown University to present this new design-oriented introductory curriculum to 57 educators. TeachScheme, supported by a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation, has seen its ideas adopted by more than 100 high schools and several universities.

Four Schools for Women in Engineering: This collaboration and Tufts, Northeastern and Boston University creates teams of middle school teachers, engineering faculty members, corporate representatives and engineering students who work to infuse science curriculum with engineering. The teams, which are composed of all women, are looking, particularly, to inspire middle school girls with the newly created engineering projects. WPI's partners are Intel, Doherty Satellite Middle School and Forest Grove Middle School.

*includes female underrepresented minorities

**includes male and female African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians

+regardless of ethnicity

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Last modified: Sep 02, 2004, 11:04 EDT
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