Niskayuna partners with GE Research for 11th annual Engineering Institute

Who says science can’t produce the thrill of an amusement park ride?  This summer, 43 young women students entering grades 7 through 9 took part in the Niskayuna Central School District’s 11th Annual Engineering Institute for Young Women summer camp. This year, you could say it provided the students with a “Playland” into the wonderful world of science and engineering!

Tom Delancey, a chemistry teacher from Niskayuna High School who led this year’s Engineering Institute, said, “Each year we work around a theme or problem that scientists and engineers in the real-world face and then let the girls run with it.  This year’s goal was to develop a working amusement park ride. When we started Monday morning, we had no idea what the end of the week would bring.  Needless to say, these young ladies knocked it out of the park.”

To assemble their amusement park, the young women formed several groups. Each group was challenged to design and build an operational theme park ride.  To get started, they visited Huck Finns Playland on Day 1 of the Camp for some inspiration and ideas. 

“I would describe the camp as a very creative and fun process where you get to create your own design, build your own design, and see it work,” said Mirabella Cococcia, seventh grade. “The first time you see it work it is so exciting and gives new motivation flowing through you.”

Delancey credited GE’s involvement over the years with giving the Institute an opportunity to provide challenging, real-life experiences to students related to STEM fields.  Experiences that are difficult, if not impossible, he notes, to recreate in the traditional classroom.  “Similar to how GE scientists form teams to tackle a given technical challenge, the girls are given a chance to see the importance of using multiple disciplines when approaching a problem through their camp experience,” Delancey added.

GE Research’s participation was led by Cheryl Sabourin and Andrea Schmitz. They organized a group of GE scientists, Dana Capitano, Stephanie Cavallaro, Ante Zhu, and Nastaren Abad, who all had the opportunity to meet with the students and discuss their projects on the final day of the camp.

Sabourin, who has been leading GE Research’s partnership with the Niskayuna School District since its inception over a decade ago, was amazed by what the girls created.

“The Niskayuna Central School District was really off the charts with creating this year’s program, and I continue to be amazed at the level of imagination and talent these young women demonstrate year-after-year,” Sabourin concluded. “I know we have some future scientists and engineers in this year’s class. And for whatever career path the girls ultimately decide to follow, they all will benefit from their interest, involvement, and skills they have acquired in science and engineering.”