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A Look Back at WTS-Boston’s Busy Year with Transportation YOU

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Article By: Alison Love

As the school year ended, it also marked the end of the most successful year yet for WTS-Boston’s Transportation YOU program. As part of a joint initiative between WTS International and the U.S. Department of Transportation, each WTS chapter creates their own local program to provide girls aged 13-18 with an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers. The program strives to make a difference in the lives of young girls by offering programs and activities that will spark their interest in all modes of transportation and encourage them to take courses in science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM), which are the stepping stones to exciting careers that can change the face of the transportation industry.

WTS-Boston’s Outreach committee has been very busy working with local organizations and partner schools to provide quality programming to as many local students as possible. In the 2015-2016 school year, the program started new partnerships with Newton Country Day School, Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, and the Everett Public School System. Events and programming were designed specifically for each school, depending on the age and number of students, to keep the students engaged. In addition to working individually with the partner schools, WTS-Boston sent volunteers to a number of local science fairs and STEM expos throughout the year to reach a broader audience with hands-on activities.

IMG_2266Almost 50 WTS members and/or industry professionals participated in the program by volunteering at the events hosted for the partner schools, leading hands-on activities at local STEM expos, or helping with the planning process by attending monthly committee meetings. Because of the efforts of so many wonderful volunteers, WTS-Boston’s Transportation YOU program was able to successfully host or attend close to 15 different events.

Washington DC Youth Transportation Summit

Each year, WTS chapters across the country have the opportunity to send pairs, one high school girl and one industry professional mentor, to attend a 5-day transportation summit in Washington DC. This year, WTS-Boston was pleased to send high school senior Emma Heller and WTS member Allison Sweeney to attend the summit. They had a wonderful experience at the action-packed summit, which was detailed in a separate article.

Touch Tomorrow Festival

On Saturday June 11th, the WTS-Boston Outreach Committee along with additional WTS volunteers participated in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Touch Tomorrow festival.  The festival was co-sponsored by NASA and WGBH and took place on WPI’s campus.  Activities at the festival focused on science and technology.  The Outreach Committee set up tables to run a “junk boats” activity.  For the activity, children built boats made from different arts and crafts materials.  They tested the boats in a bucket of water to see how many pennies they could hold.  The record for the day was a boat that held more than 500 pennies!  The goal of the activity was to challenge the children’s problem solving skills by allowing them multiple attempts to build boats so they could test multiple materials.  It also encouraged them to think about how real boats are built on a very basic level.  The activity was a huge hit for festival attendees of all ages. 

A big thank you goes out to all of the WTS volunteers at this year’s Touch Tomorrow Festival: Event lead Briana Weisgerber, Karen Wuerfl, Beth Parent, John Reilly, Laura Canham, Sarah Ginand, Leslie Stahl, Jessica Kenny, and Radha Gomez.

Everett After-School STEM Program

IMG_2201The task of partnering with and providing programming for an entire school system seemed a bit daunting last summer when the Outreach committee first met with Everett school officials, but the committee was ready to take on the challenge! Volunteers put together an after-school STEM program for 6th-8th grade girls that revolved around the Wynn Resort and Casino project in Everett. The program consisted of a rotation of hands-on activities that taught the girls about various jobs, including environmental engineering and soil remediation, structural engineering, and urban and transportation planning, which play a part in large construction projects. Each activity was explained in the context of the resort and casino project, giving the girls real-world applications on a project right in their backyard. Volunteers ran the program at all five of the grade schools in Everett, working with more than 100 students. The girls truly enjoyed the program, keeping up their enthusiasm as challenges were thrown their way. At the conclusion of the year, Director of Science Anthony Freeman summed up the experience from his point of view:

“Not only did these girls receive a fun, hands on afternoon of science and engineering experience, but also the rare chance to speak and interact with industry professionals. The opportunity for our girls throughout the city, to have this kind of exposure and introduction to science careers at this stage in their educational lives is invaluable.

 The girls each had so much fun and most importantly, now have female mentors in the industry to pattern themselves after as their education and knowledge increase.”

The Outreach committee is pleased that the inaugural after-school program was so successful and is looking forward to continuing to work with the students of Everett Public Schools. It would not have been possible without the support of an army of volunteers, who spent a lot of time and energy creating the program and running it time and again until all the schools participated. Thank you to Debra Caminiti, Jill Queenan, Heather Moulton, Mike Camoscio, Eamon Kernan, Samantha Arnold, Allison Sweeney, Briana Weisgerber, Katie Choe, and Ali Love.

Longfellow Bridge Tour

On Tuesday, April 26th, six juniors from Shawsheen Technical High School went on a tour of the Longfellow Bridge as part of the Transportation YOU program. Outreach members Ali Love, Heather Moulton, and Mike Camoscio, all of STV, helped to plan the event and joined forces with members of the joint-venture contracting team. Patricia Palmiere of Consigli and Christin Grygorcewicz of J.F. White led the girls on a tour through the ongoing construction of the Longfellow Bridge. Each of the women in the group spoke about their involvement on the project and a little about their background, how they got into their current positions, and their favorite parts of their jobs. Apart from having to brave the cold and rainy weather, the girls enjoyed the event and were engaged throughout the tour and at a discussion during lunch, where they asked a number of great follow-up questions.  According to Stacey Stadler, the students’ teacher, “they came back excited about what they had seen and heard.  They also expressed interest in being involved in future opportunities with WTS.  There is no doubt they will think about this unique experience when faced with decisions in the future.”

Cambridge Science Festival

DSC_4137On Saturday April 16, 2016, the WTS-Boston Outreach Committee participated in the Cambridge Science Festival’s “Science Carnival and Robot Zoo.”  The Outreach Committee facilitated the “Junk Boats” activity, an activity where children utilize craft supplies, or “junk”, to create boats which will float in water under the weight of a pile of pennies.  The Cambridge Science Festival is an annual event, and the Science Carnival and Robot Zoo is free and open to the public.  The event attracted a diverse group of young science enthusiasts, and the Outreach Committee members enjoyed sharing their love of engineering and transportation with local students.  Through the Junk Boat activity, the Outreach Committee encouraged students think both creatively and scientifically, and introduced them to some of the engineering challenges of the transportation industry.  Thank you to Dianne Gunther (event lead), Briana Weisgerber, and Ali Love for volunteering at the Cambridge Science Festival.

Girl Scouts STEM Expo

On April 3rd, 2016, three volunteers brought the “junk boats” activity to another local STEM expo. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts held their annual STEM Conference in Framingham, where approximately 150 girls attended workshops in the morning and an expo in the afternoon. As part of the expo portion of the day, WTS volunteers Katie Choe, Dianne Gunther, and Heather Moulton set up all kinds of craft materials and water bin, and quickly became one of the most popular tables, even compared to the station making ice cream nearby!

Volpe Simulator Tour and Speed-Mentoring

The outreach committee teamed with the U.S. DOT Volpe Center on Thursday, March 31st, to run a program that included a tour of the three simulators at the Volpe Center and a speed-mentoring activity. Approximately 20 volunteers from WTS and Volpe allowed the day to run smoothly and got the Newton Country Day students in attendance excited about the variety of careers available in the transportation and STEM world. Rachael Sack provided opening remarks, and Luisa Paiewonksy supplied closing remarks after participating in the speed mentoring activity. Mentors ranged in backgrounds and interests, job descriptions and experience levels, and it was wonderful to showcase such a variety of incredible women (and a few men) in the transportation industry. Students especially enjoyed the simulator portion of the day, with hands-on experiences in the Human Factors Labs. A special thank you goes out to event lead Anne Gates for all her work coordinating logistics at the Volpe Center and to all of the volunteers for helping out that day: Anna Biton, Robert Dorer, Bruce Wilson, Robert Wilson, Katie Lamoureux, Sara Coyle, KyAnn Anderson, Lisa Gove, Tianyi Yang, Janice Bergeron, Shannon Doherty, Shallan Fitzgerald, Ali Love, Linda Sharpe, Leslie Stahl, Rachel Strauss, and Briana Weisgerber.

Engineers Week STEM Outreach

IMG_20151117_085758358_HDRWTS joined forces with the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section (BSCES) to provide an evening of hands-on activities for students from a local Boys and Girls Club chapter. The students made catapults out of paint stirrers and paper cups, built a tall tower out of cardboard cards, raced to put together a model of a cable stay bridge, and filled balloon animal balloons to try to build a tower as tall as one of the students. The students learned that their initial ideas of how to complete each task were not necessarily the most effective ways, and they revised their strategies and kept building until each challenge was completed.

Parlin School STEM Night

Immediately following an after-school STEM program at one of the Everett Schools on Tuesday, January 19th, volunteers headed down the street to attend the Parlin School STEM night.  This annual event invites all of the students at the school, in grades K-8, to do hands-on activities and experiments with their teachers and local groups, like the WTS Transportation YOU program, to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). With such a wide age range, the Outreach Committee decided to use the “junk boats” activity, which was completely separate from those activities used earlier in the day. Volunteers Sasha Gambarov, Christian Poste, Dan O’Keefe, Heather Moulton, and Ali Love, set up the “junk boats” activity to teach students about water transportation and challenge them to improve on their own boat design to hold as many pennies as possible. Students and volunteers alike had fun trying out various designs and making quite a mess!

Shawsheen Tech Surveying Activity

On November 17th, members of the Outreach committee worked with Nitsch Engineering to perform a brief surveying workshop for the high school girls in the junior class at Shawsheen Regional Technical High School in Billerica, MA.  The girls were given a brief introduction to surveying and its applications before heading outside to an athletic field.  Jeffrey Campbell from Nitsch Engineering gave the girls four stakes and asked them to place them in the ground in a rectangle.   He then explained the stakes represent a typical foundation layout and how it is important to have 90 degree angles when constructing the building.  The girls worked in small groups to measure the distance between stakes.   Once the measurements were taken, the Nitsch surveyors demonstrated some of the equipment they use to get these measurements in the field, including a robotic total station.  Back in the classroom, the girls used the information they gathered outside to calculate the angles of the corners to see how close the shape was to a rectangle.  This activity was a wonderful opportunity for the girls to see how math they learned in the classroom could be applied in real life. Thanks to Heather Moulton and Mike Camoscio, both of STV Incorporated, for their volunteer efforts to make sure the day went off without a hitch!

IMG_20151117_091321010Engineering Career Panel

On Tuesday, November 10th, at the first event of the school year, the Outreach Committee held a panel discussion hosted at Newton Country Day School, an all-girls private school. Newton Country Day School Junior and WTS mentee, Yrvine Thelusma, kicked off the panel with a colorful presentation of the highlights of the WTS International Transportation Summit held in Washington, DC in June 2015, which she attended with WTS Boston mentor Cynthia Carleo. After the presentation, the panelists answered questions gathered from the students prior to the forum and mediated by Senior Camilla Ora. The panelists included Marie Sullivan, FST; Margela Shirley, Geocomp; Debra Caminiti, Caminiti Consulting Co. Inc.; and Ali Love, STV Incorporated, Co-Chair of the Outreach Committee. One of the main objectives of the panel was to introduce the students to the possible STEM career opportunities within the transportation industry. The panelists stressed a couple of main points: the importance of having a passion for what you do; and that although there are similarities in education and training for engineering, each career path was different from the next. The students responded well to the panel, with a few students excited to follow up with more questions after the panel was over.

Looking Ahead to Next Year

After such a successful year full of wonderful programming with students who were eager to learn, the Outreach committee is looking forward to the next school year. The Transportation YOU program will continue to work with the partner schools and participate at local STEM events. The committee is trying to come up with new programs and activities to run and is always open to suggestions. To keep the momentum of the program going to create a sustainable program, a healthy volunteer base is essential and new committee members and volunteers are always welcome. Whether volunteers would like to join the committee for monthly planning meetings or volunteer for events whenever convenient, all participation is appreciated (and it’s fun!). To learn more and get involved, contact Outreach committee co-chairs Katie Choe (Katie.choe@boston.gov) and Ali Love (Alison.love@stvinc.com).

 

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