Women in Technology Program Wins Second Campus Action Project Grant

Group launches Operation Tech Squad and hosts upcoming K-12 outreach events

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Michelle Cometa

Civil engineering technology majors Christina Farnorotto, left, and Mel Miller lead a discussion about water contamination due to flooding or hurricanes to students from Churchville-Chili Middle School. The presentation was part of the Women in Technology program’s Tech Squad K-12 outreach.

The Women in Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology won its second Campus Action Project grant from the American Association of University Women. RIT was one of 11 colleges nationally given the grant for its work to break down barriers for young women entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM programs.

The award will go toward funding science and technology outreach programs provided by the Tech Squad, a group of female undergraduate students in the Women in Technology program, which is based in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology. The Tech Squad programs are aimed at local middle and high school students, and they will be hosted at RIT or the local schools.

The Tech Squad recently presented a hands-on workshop on March 25 for 19 students from Churchville-Chili Middle School and several homeschooled youngsters. In the class, the students built mini water filters after a discussion about the recent tsunami in Japan and the challenges to the water supply as a result of the damage.

Over the next several weeks, the Tech Squad will host girls from Fairport High School’s single-gender ninth-grade class at RIT at 9:30 a.m. April 6. Members of Women in Computing, a student organization based in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, will co-host the event. Later in the week, the Tech Squad will visit seventh-graders at Monroe High School from 12-2 p.m. April 8 to do a similar hands-on workshop.

“In 2010, WIT received a Campus Action Project grant to develop professional skills of our students while building a community of women in our programs,” says Betsy Dell, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology and the director of the Women in Technology program. “This year, we are taking those skills and using them toward outreach programs that are being designed and implemented by our students.”

Through involvement in outreach activities, the students gain communication and organizational skills, develop a greater understanding of their major and strengthen relationships with their fellow students, faculty and staff, she adds.

The AAUW chose teams from around the country to launch projects that mentor young women, especially in math and science, provide networking and professional development opportunities and help encourage more young women to enter technology fields.