RIT’s SMASH Experience for Girls wins STEM program award

Finger Lakes STEM Hub honors SMASH program director Kara Maki




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Kara Maki

The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Summer Math Applications in Science with Hands-on Experience for Girls has been recognized by the Finger Lakes STEM Hub as an exemplary K-12 program in science, technology, engineering and math.

Kara Maki, director of SMASH and assistant professor in RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences, will be honored for her efforts at the STEM Hub Recognition Awards Luncheon on May 13 at St. John Fisher College.

“This award is an enormous compliment from inspiring educators in our community,” Maki said. “SMASH is about building confidence in math and science. It’s about participants starting to see the relevance of mathematics in everyday life. With application-driven mathematics, it is often not about getting the answer right the first time, but instead trying different and creative ways until you learn something new.”

She started SMASH in 2014 in response to alarming statistics from the U.S. Department of Education highlighting the nation’s drop in math and science rankings. Response from students, parents and corporate sponsors has made the program an annual event.

The SMASH Experience for Girls gives entering eighth graders a five-day focus on mathematical sciences on the RIT campus. The curriculum emphasizes hands-on activities that connect math skills to real-world problems and develops small-group communication skills. The SMASH experience will be held this year from July 18-22.

Support for the program comes, in part, from RIT’s College of Science Dean Sophia Maggelakis, RIT’s Women in Science program and the Center for Advancing STEM Teaching, Learning & Evaluation, or CASTLE, both housed in the College of Science.

Past corporate sponsors have included Time Warner Cable, Corning Incorporated Foundation, Paychex, Gloucester Engineering and Pearl Technologies. The pilot was supported by funding from the Society for Applied and Industrial Mathematics, through its partnership with the Moody’s Foundation. In addition, RIT alumni have provided need-based scholarships to SMASH.

“SMASH is a model for getting students excited about STEM education and especially about mathematics,” said Maggelakis, a member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub and founder of RIT’s Women in Science. “Kara designed the program to illustrate science and mathematics concepts in ways that are meaningful to young girls by helping them to understand how science and mathematics work together to solve complex and important problems of our society and by providing mentorship and encouragement in the process.”

Maggelakis is this year’s recipient of RIT’s Edwina Award for her contributions in support of gender diversity and inclusiveness.

For more information about SMASH, go to https://www.rit.edu/science/smash.

201605/karamaki.jpg

Kara Maki