Imagine taking 20 high school students to an amusement park. Sunscreen? Check. Snacks? Check. A few selfies on the bus ride? Check. Accelerometers?
Check. On July 13, 20 high school students explored Canobie Lake Amusement Park with sensors and instruments, battery packs, and data storage devices taped all over their bodies. They carefully secured their seatbelts, turned on their instruments, and enjoyed rides all around the park. Later, they would analyze this data and present their findings—conclusions yielded from coaster speed, angular velocity, air pressure, and heart rate. Over the course of the day, the initial embarrassment for the bulky instruments and awkward questions from ride operators gave way to pride and excitement for learning.
The trip was part of my summer as a resident tutor for the MIT Women's Technology Program (WTP), a month-long program for girls going into their senior year of high school. The program introduces girls to engineering through classroom learning, projects, presentations, and lab tours; many of these girls weren’t even considering the field before the program. My role was a residential tutor and I lived in McCormick Hall with the students and six other staff members. We taught them classroom lessons, helped them with problems sets and projects, and showed them dorm skills like cooking and doing laundry.
Over the month, I enjoyed watching the girls as they shed their embarrassment for the "nerdy" topics in the program and found pride in what they were learning. For many of them, WTP was the first time that they were in a setting where their peers were interested in the same things that they were, and they no longer felt that they had to hide their love for science and math in order to fit in. Being able to facilitate that kind of personal growth was exactly why I chose to get involved in WTP.
I knew when I heard about the opportunity to teach and mentor high school girls through WTP it was the perfect way to spend my summer. I was initially torn about what to do after graduating in June until my job would start in August. Looking back, I'm glad I began my time as an MIT alum giving back.
WTP ended almost two months ago. Since then, I've moved to California to start my job as a quality engineer for a software company in Silicon Valley. When I look back on the experience I realize that the girls in WTP had as much of an impact on me and my confidence as the program had for them.