Pictured: Keynote Speaker Joyce Onore (B.S. ’10) answers questions at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day held on February 15 in Old Westbury.
On a balmy Thursday in February, dozens of girls from local middle and high schools filed into the Student Activities Center on the Old Westbury campus. Wearing school uniforms, bright red t-shirts that said “Girls support each other,” and the latest in teen and tween fashion, they each grabbed a free keychain shaped like a wrench and engraved with the date (produced in NYIT’s Student-Run Machine Shop). The token was the first of many interactions the girls had with engineering, computing sciences, and other STEM fields during the day-long event, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
The events by the numbers:
- 5 days of events
- More than 400 girls from New York City and Long Island
- From 20+ schools and organizations
- 3 keynote speakers (Joyce Onore in Old Westbury and Fereshteh Forough, founder/president of Code to Inspire, and Amy Batallones, senior information security analyst at Con Edison, in Manhattan)
- 20+ NYIT student club leaders...
- Representing 7 NYIT clubs ACM (Association of Computer Machinery), ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and Passion2Progress...
- That offered 15+ STEM-based activities, including coding and construction challenges, robots and wigglebots, 3-D printers and Baja car parts, and more.
NYIT School of Engineering and Computing Sciences has held the event for the past several years. This year, thanks to unprecedented interest, the school offered five different sessions on the Old Westbury and Manhattan campuses, many of which coincided with National Engineers Week. During the day, the girls heard from a keynote speaker, enjoyed lunch, and did STEM-based activities led by student clubs.
Joyce Onore (B.S. ’10) was the keynote speaker for the event on February 15 held in Old Westbury. As a student at NYIT, Onore recalled being one of the only women in her engineering classes. She didn’t let the lack of parity fluster her. “It’s not about your gender in the classroom—it’s what you bring in terms of your intelligence, your vision, and your passion,” she said. Onore, who was president of the NYIT-Old Westbury chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), made sure to do internships throughout her time as an undergraduate, including with the National Grid, the School Construction Authority, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which helped her narrow her interests. She found she enjoyed project management and now works as a senior associate/project manager for PwC in Stamford, Connecticut. Most of the girls in attendance are just beginning to determine their career interests—whether in STEM or other fields—but Onore offered advice for how to get started. “I challenge every one of you to do your research and to find what appeals to you,” she said. “Then, stay motivated, be curious, and be bold.”
The event in Manhattan welcomed keynote speaker Fereshteh Forough, founder/president of Code to Inspire, which serves as a launching pad for females in Afghanistan to get involved in entrepreneurship and technological innovation. Forough spoke about her own experience as a refugee from Afghanistan, noting that it taught her that “great things can start with empty hands.” She added, “My main inspiration was my mother…She taught me how to be an entrepreneur and make the best out of the least.”
Back in Old Westbury, after hearing from Onore, the girls headed to Salten Hall, where they were challenged to build a boat from straws and tinfoil (led by the Society of Women Engineers), make an LED torch (led by students from IEEE), and support a heavy engineering textbook with a structure made of gumdrops and toothpicks (led by the NSBE). Other activities included an introduction to coding and riding a recumbent tricycle.
High School junior Natalia Cox, who plans to pursue astronautical engineering, felt the day helped her with her dream. “I’m half Hispanic, half African-American, so I’m three minorities, and for me to do this, it’s a big step. I’ve had so many teachers and professors tell me I’m never going to make it. I don’t want to be some regular person in the community. Being here, I know I’m making it.”
By Julie Godsoe