Mentoring Program Encourages Young Women to Explore Emerging STEM Interests

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
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The Prism program’s EMERGE e-mentoring project paired five students and Duke Energy employees with a group of female ninth graders from nearby West Vigo High School to encourage their interests in STEM career opportunities.

Rose-Hulman students and Duke Energy employees have spent this school year encouraging West Vigo High School freshmen girls to explore opportunities in emerging areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including green energy and ways to make their school and community more energy efficient.

The EMERGE e-mentoring program allows ninth-grade girls to use web-based communications to exchange information that will improve their academic achievement, social and emotional growth, and STEM career awareness.

The program has been organized by Rose-Hulman’s Portal Resource for Indiana Science and Mathematics (PRISM) program through support from the Duke Energy Foundation and RHIT alumni Becky and Frank Levinson.

Five Rose-Hulman students have established social networks to discuss a variety of topics with 36 West Vigo High School girls who have expressed an interest in STEM.

West Vigo EMERGE liaison Alusta Tapy, a science and math teacher, says, “The best part (of the program) is to have a connection for my students with women who are in college now and can give them a first-hand perspective that is not from a teacher or school guidance counselor. It is important to expose the freshmen to opportunities in STEM so that they can make good course selections in the following years to prepare for college.”

EMERGE mentors include Rose-Hulman senior mechanical engineering students Helen Dones of Plainfield, Indiana, and Megan Korbel of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; senior civil engineering student Rebecca Kramer of Louisville; senior electrical engineering student Pattie Giraldo of Fort Wayne, Indiana; and junior computer science student Meghna Allamudi of San Jose, California.

Groups of seven West Vigo students and one RHIT mentor participated in the U.S. Center for Energy Workforce Development’s STEM Innovation Challenge. These groups each created a video to showcase innovative plans to reduce the school’s carbon footprint while increasing comfort conditions and delivering a net-zero impact to the community. The contest was designed to help high school students learn about careers in energy and its connections to STEM and other business disciplines.

Through virtual platforms, Duke Energy employees provided valuable real-world examples about green energy applications and information about energy sustainability that could be helpful with their projects. They will continue working with students to explore other areas of STEM that might interest them.

PRISM Director Patricia Carlson of Rose-Hulman says, “These West Vigo ninth-graders were competing against much older students from high schools across the nation. I am proud of their effort and the knowledge the students gained from this experience will be helpful throughout their high school and college careers.”

Tapy agreed stating, “(EMERGE) is an amazing program that I would love to see continue in the future. In a normal school year, we would have had club time devoted to the group and a more stable schedule for meeting with mentors. I have definitely learned a lot this year and have some ideas on how to make the program even better if it continues next academic year.”

PRISM is a nationally recognized learning hub hosted by Rose-Hulman that provides digital resources and professional development opportunities for Indiana kindergarten through 12th grade STEM teachers.