During the winter break, a team of 13 engineering students from the Rensselaer Engineering Ambassadors program carved out time to visit 67 classrooms at the St. Raymond Academy schools located in Bronx, N.Y., for a full day of hands-on activities and presentations on engineering.
From Jan. 10 to 12, the group spent time with 1,799 middle and high school students enrolled in the St. Raymond Academy for Girls, St. Raymond Elementary School, and St. Raymond High School for Boys. Based in an urban setting, the students enrolled in the schools reflect the economic, geographic, and cultural diversity of the New York metropolitan area.
The three-day educational outreach effort was led by Valdimir Ramos-Vasquez ’18, a dual major in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering who is also a graduate of the St. Raymond High School of Boys. “When I was in school, it was difficult to explore the field of engineering, but I was fortunate to have role models to learn from at an early age like my dad who is a computer engineer, and an aunt who is an aeronautical engineer,” said Ramos-Vasquez. “Going back to the St. Raymond schools is a wonderful way for me to give back, and also provides us with an opportunity to touch the minds of the students to encourage them to pursue an education in the STEM fields.”
Participating Engineering Ambassadors included Tyler Brown 17, a dual major in computer systems engineering and computer science; Khalil Drayton 17, a biomedical engineering major who is also pursuing a master’s degree in supply chain management; mechanical engineering majors Mallory Gordon ’18 and Denver Overend ’19; Dana Stevens ’17, who is pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering; biomedical engineering major Jennifer Vincent ’19 and Tyler Graf ’18, who is pursuing a master’s in the field; materials science majors Michael Miller ’18 and Leili Tootsov ’19; Lauren Stenroos ’17, who is pursuing a master’s in structural engineering; and chemical engineering majors Michael Wentworth ’17 and Nicholas Ziter ’18, who is pursuing a master’s in supply chain management.
The three-day program at St. Raymond included visiting 82 classrooms. Each team of Engineering Ambassadors led the elementary, middle, and high school students through one of the following presentations: Humanitarian Logistics, Prosthetics, Future of Light 2.0, Going Green: Wind Generation, Water Filtration, Thermoelectric Devices, Jet Engines, Digital Sound, and Drag Force.
“Engineering Ambassadors represent the best of Rensselaer. Their enthusiasm and passion for engineering is contagious. I congratulate them on their success and thank them for their tremendous work in attracting the next generation to STEM disciplines. I also applaud their contributions to increasing the diversity of our student body,” said Shekhar Garde, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer.
Today there are over half a million unfilled jobs in information technology across all sectors of the economy, which reinforces the notion that computer science has become a basic requisite for 21st century jobs. Economic projections indicate that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs. In order to sustain American innovation, there is an opportunity to tackle this issue from all angles—from inside the classroom, to workplace culture, to entertainment media, according to a 2016 report titled “STEM Depiction Opportunities.”
“The hands-on learning experience is instrumental and transformative in the development and learning practices of engineering for our students,” said Judith Carew, principal for St. Raymond High School for Boys. “It was a uniquely special experience having our 2014 grad, Vladimir Ramos, back on campus and running the program for our current students. We were overjoyed to see how he has flourished at RPI and is on track to changing the world.” Following the Engineering Ambassadors outreach sessions and interest expressed, St. Raymond High School for Boys is exploring plans to develop an engineering course for the students.
Each academic year, the School of Engineering provides funding to student organizations that support Rensselaer engineering students and the profession. Funding from School of Engineering and additional support through donations from alumni and alumnae and corporate sponsors made the trip to Bronx possible. The students also had an opportunity to visit and network with staff and Rensselaer alumni and alumnae affiliated with AECOM, a New York City-based engineering design firm. The company also provided students with an engineering tour of one of their high-profile projects, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub-Oculus and Liberty Park, NYC.
Since forming in 2011, the Rensselaer Engineering Ambassadors have visited more than a dozen Capital Region school districts annually, using real-life examples from fields as varied as wind energy and snowboarding to inspire more than 24,000 students to consider a career in engineering. Currently, there are 40 students participating in the Engineering Ambassadors program. Thirty-one students have already graduated from the program.
The Rensselaer Engineering Ambassadors have been sponsored by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) since 2011. Their support has provided the resources that have enabled students to learn about the exciting opportunities within engineering careers. UTC has also provided internships, co-ops, and full-time employment opportunities to the highly qualified undergraduate Engineering Ambassadors. Additional sponsors include the CURENT Engineering Research Center, Lighting Enabled Research Center (LESA), and several Rensselaer School of Engineering faculty.