Designing Young Women Help Build Worcester Playground

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass.-- Last summer, 10 sixth-grade girls, all participants in WPI's Camp REACH (Reinventing Engineering and Creating New Horizons), teamed up to design the play areas and landscaping for a new playground at the corner of Austin and Newbury streets in Worcester. On Saturday, June 23, several of these teenagers will reunite with other volunteers at a Community Build event.

Under sponsorship of the Piedmont Crime Prevention Team, REACH campers Alison MacFadden of Brimfield, Allison Hoch of Harvard, Bethany Stolz of Hubbardston, Samantha Tucker of Leominster, Julie Ducharme of North Oxford, Jacqueline Mooney of Sterling, Christine Aloia of Uxbridge, Julia Randall of Westborough, and Natalie Lopez and Carrie Mahoney of Worcester, selected low-maintenance trees, perennials and bushes, chose the mulch, and developed a plan that would ensure that the site was accessible to the handicapped.

Now in its fifth year, Camp REACH is a two-week, residential summer enrichment program in science and engineering that helps young women about to enter the seventh grade appreciate the excitement and rewards of careers in these fields. This year, 30 middle school girls from throughout Massachusetts will attend the camp from July 22 through Aug. 3. In addition to WPI professors and students, the staff includes three Worcester County middle school teachers.

The major focus of the program is a design project completed under sponsorship of a local agency or company. In the past, participants have redesigned two rooms at the Edward Street Day Care Center to make it easier for students and teachers to find and use supplies; designed toy cabinets for the University of Massachusetts Medical Center's Pediatrics Clinic; developed a system to grow trees for replanting by Princeton Municipal Light Department workers; and figured out how to soundproof support group meeting rooms at AIDS Project Worcester.

"We believe that a key to realizing the full representation of women among engineers lies in communicating the nature of what engineers do, how they help our society, and the skills they require to do so," says REACH co-founder and director Denise Nicoletti, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

For more information on Camp Reach, visit www.wpi.edu/~reach.

Founded in 1865, WPI was a pioneer in technological higher education. Early on, it developed an influential curriculum that balanced theory and practice. Since 1970, that philosophy has been embodied in an innovative outcomes-oriented undergraduate program. The first women enrolled in 1968; they currently comprise about 25 percent of the undergraduate population, with initiatives in place to attract more women to campus. With a network of project centers that spans the globe, WPI is also the leader in globalizing technological education. WPI awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, most of WPI's academic departments offer masterís and doctoral programs and support leading-edge research in a broad range of areas.