Nitsch Engineering Teaches Girls About Cell Phone Engineering at 12th Annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Nitsch Engineering, a Boston-based engineering firm, hosted its 12th annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on April 24th, with support from Northeastern University. This year’s program introduced 79 girls, ranging from 6th to 12th grade, to the engineering principles that are involved in making cell phones work, from networks to circuit boards to industrial engineering.

“Engineering touches so many of parts of our day-to-day life, and we wanted to take the opportunity this year to show that engineering is directly related to something many teenagers can’t live without … their cell phone!” said Nitsch Engineering Founding Principal Judith Nitsch, PE, LEED AP BD+C. “We hope that by showing girls how engineers make a huge difference in the way that people live, more girls will realize that engineering can be a fun, creative, and rewarding career.”

When the girls arrived at Northeastern’s John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute Cabral Center, they were able to view deconstructed cell phones, then participate in an activity where they put nine historical cell phone models into chronological order. Ms. Nitsch then provided an overview of how rewarding a career in engineering can be, as well as information on the history of the cell phone. Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering graduate Michele W. Sequeira, Editorial Specialist at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center and co-author of Cell Phone Science: What Happens When You Call and Why, then presented on how cell phones work.

The girls then participated in hands-on activities that helped them understand how phones work. During the first activity, teams of two or three girls deconstructed old land-line phones, with the goal of breaking them down into as many individual components as possible. Engineers helped the girls identify the different parts of the phone. The next activities involved showing the girls how to connect circuits to make a seven-segment display light up with letters and numbers, then showing them how to wire a circuit board like these boards you’d commonly see on MKTPCB’s page or the likes, in order to make LED lights flash and a speaker play a song. Meanwhile, the parents and teachers who accompanied the girls attended a seminar on how to help their daughters succeed in college led by Kristin Tichenor, Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Institutional Strategy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Rachelle Reisberg, Assistant Dean for Engineering Enrollment and Retention as well as Director of Women in Engineering at Northeastern; Ronné Turner, Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission at Northeastern; and two Northeastern engineering students.

The day culminated with a lunch panel discussion about working as an engineer. Moderated by Christine Breen, PE, LEED Green Associate, a transportation engineer at Nitsch Engineering, the panel included perspectives from six female engineers or engineering students: Valerie Charry, a computer engineering student at Northeastern; Michelle DiBenedetto, PE, LEED AP BD+C, a civil engineer at Nitsch Engineering; Dr. Susan F. Freeman, a mechanical and industrial engineering professor at Northeastern; Christine Keches, PE, LEED Green Associate, a transportation engineer at Nitsch Engineering; Catherine McManus, a Northeastern civil engineering co-op student working at Nitsch Engineering; and Ms. Sequeira.

About Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Started by the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and IBM in 2001, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day aims to increase interest in math and science among girls. Now organized by the National Engineers Week Foundation, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day has become a global event, reaching over one million young women each year.