November 15, 2022
Gioffre’s Volunteerism Delivers STEM to Kids
Service has always been important to Maddie Gioffre. As an undergraduate at CEE, she served on the student executive board of ASCE, helping to plan and run events within the department. This experience developed her leadership skills and led her to her current position as CEO of S.Y.STEM Coalition, a volunteer-run nonprofit that works to deliver hands-on, community-centered STEM experiences to students, in partnership with industry.
In her role, Gioffre helps to set the strategic direction of the organization’s work in Pittsburgh, Tucson, and Nyadire, Zimbabwe. “I make sure the organization is staffed with volunteers and that we're continuing to serve our communities in the best way we can,” she says.
S.Y.STEM Coalition engages students through specialized workshops, insider tours at STEM workplaces such as robotics labs, career outreach in classrooms, guided internships, and STEM camps focused on electronics and robotics. There’s also a month-long summer program for high schoolers that pairs students with business and technical mentors as they work to develop a product and pitch to a panel of sharks—for the chance to earn a scholarship.
Gioffre adds that working with S.Y.STEM Coalition is extremely rewarding because she participates alongside peers who believe in the organization’s mission and want to make a difference. “I get the opportunity to work with kids who may not have had exposure to different STEM fields. I see the excitement in their eyes when they get their robot moving for the first time.”
To achieve the organization’s goal to inspire youth to envision new possibilities and pursue success through STEM, S.Y.STEM Coalition relies on immersive hands-on activities and games. “During the robotics camp at Hosana House this summer, we had students instruct the teacher on how to make a PB& J sandwich, which helped to simulate giving instructions to a computer. The teacher would only do exactly what the kids told him to do, which wasn't always what they wanted.” Gioffre adds that the final project involved programming a robot to go through a maze. “We try to be creative and make most of the time activities and games.”
This past summer, S.Y.STEM Coalition launched a brand new program in Zimbabwe that provides students with training in computer sciences—allowing them to pursue higher education or secure a remote job with a software company. The program is the brainchild of Gioffre and four other CMU alums--Angela Ng, Tara Stentz, Kim Kleiven, and Rohan Varma.
In partnership with The Nyadire Connection, students in Zimbabwe had the opportunity to attend robotics workshops and learn about a planned Coding Club that will put STEM learning into practice. Additionally, CMU’s CS Academy is assisting in training on-ground instructors who will work closely with S.Y.STEM Coalition to keep the programs moving forward.
Gioffre’s volunteerism is a continuation of work she began at CEE. There, she volunteered as the project manager for the university’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
“The CEE department was always very supportive of [my work] and gave me the room I needed to grow outside of my formal education. I'm thankful for being given the opportunity to learn both inside the classroom and out by the CEE department.”
Gioffre encourages students and graduates to get involved with their communities for the benefits it provides those served as well as personal satisfaction. “Whether you're a year-round volunteer who helps to plan and run events, or you're a volunteer who gives up their Saturday morning to mentor kids, it's truly an amazing experience to be able to give back.”
Learn more about S.Y.STEM Coalition by visiting the organizations’ website.