During the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 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, NY, for a full day of hands-on activities and presentations in engineering.
From Jan. 10-12, the group spent time with 1,799 middle and high school students enrolled in 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 opportunity to touch the minds of the students to encourage students 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 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 including visiting 82 classrooms. Each team of Engineering Ambassadors lead 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 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 trans-formative 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/ae and corporate sponsors made the trip to Bronx possible. The students also had an opportunity to visit and network with staff and Rensselaer alumni/ae 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 over 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), along with several Rensselaer School of Engineering faculty.
While at Rensselaer, students also will experience facets of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The foundation for this vision is the recognition that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Rensselaer serves as a crossroads for collaboration—working with partners across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions—to address complex global challenges, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges—from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.
For more information about the Rensselaer Engineering Ambassadors, please visit here.
About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 84 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Science, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 7 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 4 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.