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Westchester County Business Journal: "Girls build robots as part of Pace’s new STEM outreach program"

10/08/2015 News Release Image

Westchester County Business Journal: "Girls build robots as part of Pace’s new STEM outreach program"

On a recent Saturday, 30 high school sophomores and juniors attended a class at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems for a new program dedicated to bringing science, technology, engineering and math to secondary school students.

But this classroom didn’t look quite like the advanced STEM classes many of these students take at their respective high schools because this program is for girls only.

Nancy Treuer, project manager for Pace’s women-in-technology initiative, WIT@PACE, said at first everyone was shy and quiet but by the end of the first day the girls were excited and talkative.

“They seemed to really enjoy being in an environment with all girls,” Treuer said.

STEM Women Achieve Greatness, or SWAG, is the name of the Pace program that started Oct. 3 for the first 30 high schoolers who signed up for the nine-week series in which they will build robots and receive instruction from Pace’s Seidenberg School faculty.

The student body of the program is diverse, Treuer said, and it represents schools in Westchester and Fairfield counties, including Bedford’s Fox Lane High School, Ridgefield High School, Masters School in Dobbs Ferry and the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering in Stamford.

The sessions are three hours long and the curriculum has been designed by Pace instructors including Nancy Lynch Hale, an associate professor in charge of outreach and corporate education at the school.

The students were split into groups in which they will be “designing, developing and deploying their robot to collect data,” Hale said.

The robots, which are SeaPerch kits to construct remote-controlled vehicles meant to operate in water, will require creative design by the students so the robot can perform certain data-collecting tasks, such as taking water temperatures.

The next step will be developing a control device enabling the robot to move in the water, collect data and send information back to the students.

Students will also have to learn how to use software to make sure their robot can’t be hacked.

“All of us are more aware of identity theft and (the students) are probably in a place in their lives where people could take over their social media accounts,” Hale said. The security segment of the curriculum will challenge the students, she said, to “look at the best practices that need to be in place to ensure that these kinds of devices” are secure.

The course will end with a showcase Dec. 12 in which the students will present their devices and show how they are used.

The course is free and is being offered in collaboration with GE Capital.

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