Carnegie Mellon University
March 16, 2015

INI Students To Mentor Fifth-Grade Girls at STEM Workshop

On March 20, Carnegie Mellon will host a visit for Techbridge, coordinated by the Silicon Valley campus (SV) and a student group from the Information Networking Institute (INI). Techbridge's after-school programs for elementary through high school-aged girls in underserved communities aim to inspire girls to change the world through science, technology and engineering and math--the critical STEM disciplines that are changing the world.

"This day on campus is a great way to show the options for women in technology, so girls understand from a young age how to make good career decisions," says Divya Chandra Sekar, an officer of Women@INI (WINI), an INI leadership group. The WINI students at SV are from the MSIT-25 class, in their second year of the bicoastal program; more than a third of the students in the program are women.

"We grew up looking to male role models, but there should be women too," Divya said. And even though she and the other WINI participants have been successful and are prepared for careers in tech, if they'd had more women available to act as mentors, she says, "it would have been a lot clearer to me that it was possible."

According to longitudinal studies by Techbridge, their alumnae are twice as likely to pursue a college STEM degree than the national average for young women. "Eighty-two percent of our girls say that spending time with role models on field trips like this one was a factor in their increased interest in a STEM career," says Rachel Wold, Techbridge Corporate Partnerships and Community Manager. "Meeting role models like Divya dispels stereotypes about what kinds of people should pursue science and engineering and gives girls ideas of potential career options that they may not have previously considered or even knew existed."

Twenty-five fifth graders from Rocketship Si Se Puede Charter School in San Jose will join the WINI student role models for a tour of the Silicon Valley campus, including the labs and research projects where students and faculty collaborate.

Divya and several of the other WINI leaders are in the MS Information Technology – Information Security track, so they are preparing a game of viruses and firewalls to introduce basic internet safety rules and start a discussion about their studies in security and privacy.

They are also planning brainstorming sessions about different careers that are possible in STEM fields and how to prepare for college. Divya says, "Not everyone has to be an engineer, but girls should know all of their options."

A Techbridge group last visited the Silicon Valley campus in spring 2013, learning about programming and working hands-on in CMIL.

This article was originally published on the Silicon Valley campus website.