After E2@MIT, alum mentored in New York and advocated for tech-based education in South America

Valarezo traveling through Ecuador via kayak to film interviews with community members

Valarezo traveled via kayak to film interviews with community members and learn more about education in Ecuador

Columbia University sophomore Jessica Valarezo knew that she wanted to shift perceptions and incubate ideas since taking part in Engineering Experience at MIT (E2@MIT) in high school. With a strong interest in education, Valarezo recently mentored students in New York and traveled to Ecuador and Brazil to prove that technology can benefit communities in immeasurable ways. The chance to give young women the confidence to seek out the careers they want and to implement new educational ideologies in the developing world drive Valarezo’s work.

In 2012, Valarezo participated in E2@MIT, a weeklong program that provides students with a project-based course and workshops in science and engineering. “MIT made me realize the value of mentorship and outreach programs and how startling of an impact they can make on people,” said Valarezo.

Valarezo felt reverberating effects of her transformation years later when she reviewed a journal entry she wrote during E2@MIT in which she pledged her college years to outreach efforts. “I found that journal the last day of my program this summer, and I came full circle,” said Valarezo.

Valarezo mentoring at Girls Who Code, a nonprofit aimed at reaching gender parity in computer science.

Valarezo mentored at Girls Who Code, a nonprofit aimed at reaching gender parity in computer science.

Spurred by the effects of E2@MIT, she became a mentor for Girls Who Code, an initiative that empowers girls to excel in computer science through programs in libraries, schools, and community centers across the country. During her time with Girls Who Code, Valarezo worked with one girl from Paraguay who felt self-conscious because of her accent. Over the course of her time in the program, she learned to code and gained the courage to speak with exceptional confidence. In another instance, two girls created a videogame in four days that was featured in New York Daily News and Seventeen Magazine.

Valarezo says her experience with Girls Who Code impacted her as positively as it impacted the girls she mentors. She is now resolved to start a chapter of Girls Who Code at Columbia University, where she is a member of the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers and Women in Computer Science.

Valarezo and three fellow students from Columbia University travel across Ecuador and Brazil to conduct research on different education systems.

Valarezo and three fellow students from Columbia University traveled across Ecuador and Brazil to conduct research on different education systems.

Valarezo’s time with Girls Who Code inspired her to join a last-minute trip to shoot a documentary about education in Ecuador. “After Girls Who Code, I realized the difference a curriculum can make,” said Valarezo. “I was interested in seeing if using more technology can become part of community reform in Ecuador.” She traveled with three other young women who each had personal hopes for the trip but were united by a common ideal of cultural understanding. Throughout the journey, they spent time with people who shared stories of hope for their own communities as well as stories of success. “To be in some places where development was actually happening and corruption was lessened was hopeful,” said Valarezo.

Now, Valarezo carries what she learned in Ecuador and Brazil as she seeks out her own career. In the near future, she looks forward to pursuing an internship abroad with a software company in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America, where she hopes to continue learning as much as she can and gain more experience in computer science.

—Sydney Lester

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MIT Sloan’s EMBA students provide career advice, network with future scientists and engineers

This summer, experienced professionals from industry and academia in the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Executive MBA program contributed their time and career wisdom to rising high school seniors from across the country participating in programs offered by the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs. The EMBA students served on panels and networked with the high school students in three programs.

MITES

The Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) program hosted science- and engineering-inclined rising seniors from across the country for six weeks, teaching them college-level coursework and life skills to prepare them for college. Eight EMBA panelists attended a MITES dinner on July 22, during which they met with 72 high-performing high school students to network and share advice on a discussion-based panel. MIT Sloan guests included Neerja Bharti (Teleios International), Thomas Horstmann (Eisai Inc.), Karen Edwards (Biogen Idec), Laurel Taylor (Google), Hong Chen (Sanofi Oncology), Adel Malek (Tufts Medical Center), Thomas Stephens (Trinity Partners) and Jonathan Lehrich (MIT Sloan School of Management).

MITES students shared dinner with and sought career advice from EMBA members during an event on July 22.

MITES students shared dinner with and sought career advice from EMBA members during an event on July 22.

MOSTEC

Another group of EMBA members participated in a professional mixer on July 31 for the MIT Online Science, Technology and Engineering Community (MOSTEC), which provides students with six months of online coursework, admissions support and mentorship. The Alumni and Professional Mixer combined dinner with casual networking and opportunities for mentorship. EMBA participants included Tim Piccirilli (American Tower Corporation), Hasshi Sudler (Internet Think Tank, Inc.), Stuart Hart (University of South Florida) and Dan Cosgrove (DuPont Pioneer).

MOSTEC students practice their networking skills with EMBA student Dan Cosgrove at the professional mixer on July 31.

MOSTEC students practice their networking skills with EMBA student Dan Cosgrove at the professional mixer on July 31.

E2@MIT

The MIT Office of Engineering Programs also welcomed EMBA students on August 5 for a dinner and discussion with the 109 students participating in the Engineering Experience at MIT (E2@MIT) program, a one-week project-based prorgam. EMBA members involved in the panel were Charlie Maher (Naval Undersea Warfare Center), Alvero Diez (Corporacion Multifranquicias), Cheryl Campbell (MA Department of Public Health), Ken Bobu (Safe-T Discs, LLC), Joe Schloesser (Iron Mountain Data Solutions), Bill Van Schalkwyk (MIT) and Kamran Hameed (Panera Bread).

EMBA members share career wisdom at a panel and dinner with E2 students on August 5.

EMBA members share career wisdom at a panel and dinner with E2 students on August 5.

—Sydney Lester

New green energy course inspires high school seniors from across the country

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15 students from across the country received certificates for completing the E2@MIT energy course this summer.

This summer, 15 rising high school seniors from across the country learned about renewable energy as part of a new course offered through Engineering Experience at MIT (E2@MIT), a one-week science and engineering enrichment program offered by the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs. The course taught students the benefits and drawbacks of four different types of renewable energy – geothermal, wind, hydroelectric and solar power – and culminated in student presentations on wind farms that they modeled using advanced software.

Student Samuel Zinga of Loganville, Georgia, uses a model to demonstrate how wind turbines generate energy.

Student Samuel Zinga of Loganville, Georgia, uses a model to demonstrate how wind turbines generate energy.

The course was made possible by Enel Green Power North America (EGP-NA), which invested in the program as part of its efforts to fortify the future of the economy, industry, and company though engagement with younger generations. More than a dozen EGP-NA employees participated, including Enel Green Power CEO and General Manager Francesco Venturini. The EGP-NA employees taught students about various renewable energy technologies and the basics of the industry’s business.

Zack Irons, wind project design and evaluation manager at EGP-NA, led the students through wind farm design projects, spending hours each day working with them and guiding them through the full design process using real-world data and software. After working closely with the students, he was inspired by their intellect and work ethic.

“These individuals were easily some of the sharpest and most intuitive minds I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” Irons said. “Their ability to grasp new concepts, retain enormous amounts of information, and apply that information using brand new tools was beyond impressive – it was inspiring.”

Evelyn Darden from Naperville, Illinois, was interested in the environment before she arrived on the MIT campus, and she developed an even stronger affinity for renewable energy during the E2@MIT course. Through observing course instructor Vera Steinmann’s lab work on photovoltaic cells, Darden affirmed her desire to pursue scientific research in the future.

“I wanted to go into medicine, so I was on the fence about going into research,” said Darden. “When I talked to Vera, it was really reassuring to know that I could go into research during my undergrad.” Since her involvement in E2@MIT and the green energy course, Darden hopes to learn more renewable energy and the implementation of new green technology. “I never knew there were so many different ways to use renewable energy. It’s something that I’d like to research one day.”

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CEO and General Manager Francesco Venturini was one of many Enel Green Power representatives who attended the E2@MIT Final Symposum on August 9.

At Darden’s age, Steinmann held a similar idea about the importance of green energy in everyday life. “I grew up being very aware of the environment and renewable energy; my family has solar panels on their roof,” said Steinmann. “Sometimes I get the impression that people aren’t aware where power comes from, and people use it wastefully.”

Steinmann hoped that by teaching E2@MIT students about photovoltaic cells and other sources of green power, she could inspire them to bring that knowledge back to their communities and make green power more widely embraced.

“I think renewable energy is important because our other sources of energy are limited, and we can’t rely on coal, gas and oil forever,” said Steinmann. “Burning oil harms our environment, and if we want to do something good for the environment, we should focus on renewable.”

—Sydney Lester

Team of E2@MIT students builds and tests underwater robots

E2@MIT student Nadia Ferrer explains her team's underwater robotics project, which they designed to prevent an oil spill from spreading.

E2@MIT student Nadia Ferrer explains her team’s underwater robotics project, which they designed to prevent a simulated oil spill from spreading.

In one week this summer, 13 students studying underwater robotics in the Engineering Experience at MIT (E2@MIT) program designed and constructed remote-operated vehicles (ROVs). On August 9, they headed to MIT’s Zesiger Center swimming pool to test their projects.

E2@MIT staff, in collaboration with the MIT Sea Grant Program, offered Underwater Robotics as one of its six courses for the first time this year. The other courses were Architecture, Electronics, Aeronautics and Astronautics, Engineering Design, and Fluid Mechanics. In each course, students learned problem-solving methods in engineering and completed an assignment with a design-related task, practicing turning ideas into completed projects. Outside of coursework, students interacted with admissions and financial aid officers, visited labs, and conversed with MIT faculty and students.

The Underwater Robotics students faced a challenging assignment inspired by a real-world challenge: to create a prototype ROV for British Petroleum. The ROV had to be capable of inspecting the pipes that deliver materials from the seafloor and containing and cleaning oil spills. The group was divided into three teams, each assigned one of three specific tasks: pipe inspection and monitoring, oil containment, and clean up and monitoring.

For the students, building an ROV was a new experience. On Monday and Tuesday, they took a crash course on building simple ROVs in conjunction with the MIT Sea Grant Sea Perch Program. On Wednesday, they learned about computer-aided design (CAD) and principles of buoyancy. After brainstorming and coming up with designs for their various tasks, they spent Friday amidst colorful zip ties, foam floats, batteries and wire, constructing their robots.

Of course, as student Richard Lopez-Sanchez later reflected, “what works in theory doesn’t necessarily work in practice.” During the day at the pool, the students discovered that designing to meet a challenge also involves confronting unexpected challenges and tweaking plans.

Richard’s team was responsible for building the ROV capable of pipe inspection. The team members crouched between two diving boards, considering their ROV: a crab-like construction with two long, white arms each ending in a small rectangular mirror. The body was fitted with a round, black camera and covered with colorful donut-shaped plastic floats. It floated serenely in the water – so serenely that it failed to dip beneath the water, despite Isaiah Udotong’s fiddling with the remote controller.

“Let’s cut off some of the donuts,” Michelle Ng suggested. Richard made the adjustments, and the floats soon make an orange, turquoise, and purple pile on the deck beneath Sofia Blasini’s feet.

With the ROV continuing to float, the students tried cutting some of the pink low-density foam attached to the body. As the ROV began to sink, the students yelled with excitement, but began to groan as they realized that had over-adjusted and the ROV hit the pool floor. Course instructor Kathryn Shryover – already in bathing suit and moving between projects – retrieved the ROV. The crew returned to brainstorming ideas.

The process of considering various possibilities, attempting prototypes, and revising ideas also challenged Claire Apuan’s team. Her team, the containment group, was in charge of creating ROVs to circle and “hug” the oil spill. “We had about ten different ideas,” Claire said. “It was hard to come down to one.”

Lessons reached beyond engineering. Olutoyin Demuren of the cleanup team cited the importance of perseverance. “When it’s 12:30 and you thought you had a great design, it can be very stressful,” she said.

At the end of the week, after four hours of design and over ten hours of construction, the teams’ ROVs collected 298,000 barrels of oil (in the form of plastic balls). For many students, the journey was more impressive than the final numbers. “This summer has been the first application of engineering for me,” said Nadia Ferrer, who had always thought she would pursue a career in nursing. “I love [engineering]. This is me; they made this profession for me.”

— Lena Bae