Princeton students share the power of engineering with high school girls

By Teresa Riordan
May 23, 2007

Putting into action Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman’s exhortation that more women must be encouraged to pursue careers in science and engineering, a team of Princeton Engineering undergraduate and graduate students recently made a field trip to New York City, sharing their enthusiasm for engineering with dozens of high school girls.

High-school girls from five schools in the New York City area convened at the Marymount School in Manhattan on May 8 to hear women from Princeton Engineering talk about their work. The girls also engaged in a bit of hands-on engineering themselves when they competed -- using gumdrops and dried spaghetti as materials – in a tower-building contest.

Photos by Tanya Priber, courtesy of the Marymount School

“The one-on-one interaction and exposure to the wide range of ways that engineering plays a role in our lives really seems to open up these students to the excitement of science and technology,” said Associate Dean Peter Bogucki of Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

In addition to Marymount, the schools represented were Convent of the Sacred Heart, Erasmus Star, The Nightingale-Bamford School, and the Spence School.

The Princeton engineers demonstrated the wide range of pursuits that engineering offers. Giving presentations were Catherine Peters, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean at Princeton’s School of Engineering; graduate students Sharon Goldberg and Tara Troy;  and undergraduates Michelle Gawrys , Shirley Li, and Ishani Sud.

After hearing presentations on a range of topics – from engineering at the beach to technology for developing regions -- the girls divided into school teams to compete in a spaghetti-and-gumdrop tower building competition. The winner of the competition was the team from the Nightingale-Bamford School, whose tower measured 85 inches tall.

Christine Danielewski ’83, director of institutional advancement at Marymount, oversaw arrangements and details of the event, which was organized in conjunction with the National Coalition of Girls Schools and Peter Bogucki and Sharon Kulik of the Office of Undergraduate Affairs at Princeton.