In celebration of National Engineers Week, the School of Engineering hosted its annual Exploring Engineering Day event Feb. 22. Designing balloon cars, extreme newspaper construction, tissue engineering artery design, Lego engineering, straw towers, and “ice creamical” engineering are just a few of the engineering activities 300 children in grades 3 to 6 and their parents explored as part of the program.

“Exploring Engineering Day activities are designed to spark the interest of young children in engineering and computer science through hands-on exploration,” said Barbara Ruel, director of diversity and women in engineering programs in the School of Engineering. “We are always looking for ways to engage with students and the local community to encourage individuals to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In order to expand our outreach efforts, we reached out to the superintendents of our major cities and local public and charter schools, as well as several area organizations.”

Launched 11 years ago, the program has increased in both size and diversity. The program included children from Girls Inc., Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts organizations, local area private and public schools, and home-schooled children. Approximately 50 percent of the participating students were young girls.


The annual program introduces students and their families to diverse college student role models who are pursuing degrees in engineering and computer science, and leading the activities as a way to engage with the children.”

The annual program is coordinated by the Rensselaer chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), with support from multiple School of Engineering student organizations. Area organizations that also participated in the event include miSci (Museum of Innovation and Science) and GlobalFoundries.

Biomedical engineering major Carolyn Chlebek ’15 and chemical engineering major Kirthana Bhat ’15 served as this year’s event co-chairs, working with Ruel to plan and deliver the program, along with support from 200 Rensselaer student volunteers.

Eight different workshops were offered, all led by engineering undergraduate and graduate students who are members of engineering professional societies and clubs at Rensselaer. Ruel noted that the annual program introduces students and their families to diverse college student role models who are pursuing degrees in engineering and computer science, and leading the activities as a way to engage with the children.

Following a student panel session, parents had the opportunity to delve into the world of STEM disciplines by participating in two of the four hands-on activities that their children were attending.

In an effort to provide parents with information about how to encourage and support their children’s curiosity and interest in STEM disciplines, they received take-home information about games, local activities, and online resources.

Additional Rensselaer groups involved in delivering the sessions included the National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, and Materials Advantage. Also participating were Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honor society, Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society, American Institute of Chemical Engineering student chapter, Biomedical Engineering Graduate Council, American Nuclear Society student chapter, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Engineers without Borders, Institute for Industrial Engineering student chapter, Rensselaer Electric Vehicle student organization, Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, and the Design, Build, Fly student organization.—Jessica Otitigbe