WPI Programs Inspire Underrepresented Future Engineers, Mathematicians, Scientists

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass.-- To most kids, summer means a long-awaited break from the rigors and routine of the school year--a chance to get out and play ball or swim, sun or sleep late. For two groups of middle school students, summer will also include WPI's Strive Jr. and GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math and Science) programs: three days of exploring how exciting and important engineering, math and science are to their lives and to the future.

"The goal of Strive Jr. and GEMS is to open seventh- through ninth-graders' eyes to the excitement of engineering," says Janelle Smith of Jefferson, Mass., a junior majoring in mathematics who is coordinating the program and training the WPI students who will assist WPI professors with their lessons. Working in teams, participants will see firsthand how engineering uses math and science to solve problems--everything from how to build bridges or make artificial organs to exploring ways of treating waste to keep it from polluting the environment.

Co-sponsored by WPI's Office of Diversity and Women's Programs and the EcoTarium, Strive Jr. will be held at WPI from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 31 through Aug. 2. The program is open to African-American, Latino or Native American students who will enter grades 7, 8 or 9 in September. The $35 cost includes lunches and a T-shirt. Scholarships are available. Application deadline is June 25. For more information, call 508-831-5819 or register online at www.wpi.edu/Admin/Diversity. GEMS, a Diversity and Women's Programs initiative for middle-school girls that will be held Aug. 7, 8 and 9, is no longer accepting applicants.

Smith is looking forward to sharing her enthusiasm for engineering math and science with the teenagers in the Strive Jr. and GEMS programs. The daughter of a mechanical engineer, she says she always loved learning how things work and has always enjoyed and been good at mathematics. She advanced a year in the subject at Mount View Middle School in Holden, then took all the available math courses at Wachusett Regional High School, where she was a varsity cheerleader and a member of the executive board of the WRHS Chapter of the National Honor Socity. "Wachusett fosters a learning environment that promotes doing well," says Smith. "You weren't considered a geek if you did well in class and participated in school activities."

At WPI, Smith is student body vice president, an orientation leader, a resident assistant and a Crimson Key Admissions tour guide. After graduation she'd like to land a job with the National Science Foundation, where she hopes to focus on gender equity in the technological classroom. "Many times growing up I'd hear kids say, "I'm not good at math or science," she says. "I'd like to do research to find ways to encourage more younger students to get excited about a subject that everyone needs to know about. That's why I am so enthusiastic about Strive Jr. and GEMS."

WPI's Office of Diversity and Women's Programs was founded in December 2000 with a mission to increase diversity at WPI while fostering a climate of inclusiveness. Director Stephanie Blaisdell says she anticipates offering high school outreach programs to underrepresented students in the summer of 2002. To receive information as it becomes available, please register at the Web site www.wpi.edu/Admin/Diversity.

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. With a network of project centers that span the globe, WPI is also the leader in globalizing technological education.