RIT SMASH experience gives girls mad math skills and career ideas

Corporate sponsors include Time Warner Cable, Corning Incorporated Foundation, Pearl Technologies, Gloucester Engineering and Paychex




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Forty-three girls entering eighth grade will spend this week at Rochester Institute of Technology exploring mathematics as the language of science and solving problems through mathematical modeling.

Summer Math Applications in Science with Hands-on Experience for Girls or SMASH, is co-hosted by RIT’s College of Science and Multicultural Center for Academic Success, with support from Women in Science and the Center for Advancing Science/Math Teaching, Learning & Evaluation, or CASTLE, both housed in the College of Science.

SMASH will run July 13–17 and conclude with a hands-on event in the RIT College of Science Bruce and Nora James Atrium. Representatives from corporate sponsors Time Warner Cable, Corning Incorporated Foundation, Paychex, Gloucester Engineering and Pearl Technologies will bring hands-on activities to campus to demonstrate the role of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in their industries. RIT alumni have also contributed to the effort to provide need-based scholarships to SMASH.

“Our sponsors know the future of their industries depends on a workforce educated in science and math,” said SMASH director Kara Maki, assistant professor in RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences. “These young women are part of that next generation and we have a responsibility to give them every opportunity to succeed. The nation cannot afford to let young girls lose interest and slip away from math and science because no one was there to encourage them.”

The program was piloted last year with support from RIT’s College of Science Dean Sophia Maggelakis and the Society for Applied and Industrial Mathematics, through its partnership with the Moody’s Foundation.

The SMASH curriculum includes gender-based education that affirms participants’ abilities. The group of young girls will interact with RIT undergraduate students and educators who have made careers in mathematics and science. The program is built around role models represented by the student facilitators and faculty, and self-efficacy—the girls’ belief that they can do math. The problem-solving activities and experiments will include group discussion and self-reflection.

“We are utilizing two pre-service teachers and three STEM majors from the Multicultural Center for Academic Success, two of whom are Rochester City Scholars,” said SMASH associate director Geraldine Cochran, associate director of RIT’s Multicultural Center for Academic Success. Our goals have been to expand the model to include STEM teacher recruitment and preparation and strengthen our connection to the Rochester community.”

For more information about SMASH, contact Kara Maki at smash@rit.edu, or Geraldine Cochran at glcsps@rit.edu, or go to www.rit.edu/science/smash.