Engineering Ambassadors head to Norway

January 24, 2011

The Penn State Engineering Ambassadors are pros at giving presentations at regional middle schools and high schools to educate and interest young girls in the field of engineering.

They also are accustomed to giving specialized presentations to prospective college students and their families about engineering and, specifically, Penn State's program.

But recently, the group embarked on a new journey — one that took them across the world to Oslo, Norway. Faculty adviser Melissa Marshall took two ambassadors, bioengineering and mechanical engineering senior Danielle DaSilva and mechanical and nuclear engineering senior Kim Harrison, to Norway in October to hold a weeklong workshop with 11 female students from the University of Oslo. The workshop was held to assist these students in starting a program like the Engineering Ambassadors, called the Prepare Program. It was hosted at the Simula Research Laboratory.

"Essentially, the program put out a call for female students interested in doing this kind of outreach — they were interested in the mission to encourage more female students in the sciences," Marshall explained, adding that the workshop focused on communication and particularly how to communicate about science to high school students and get them excited about the subject matter.

The goal for the end of the week was that each Oslo student would have developed a presentation they could later use in high schools. But the Norway ambassadors will have a more specialized audience than the Penn State ambassadors do — they must address 10th graders.

"Their school system is a little bit different -- their secondary schools pick a track for a career," Harrison explained. "So it's very important to expose them to science and math and more technical fields they might not have an interest in." She said she and DaSilva helped the Oslo students create presentations about numerous topics, like biology, chemistry and nanotechnology.

Marshall, Harrison and DaSilva said the trip was amazing and beneficial for both parties. One thing that helped the experience, Marshall said, was the Oslo students' commitment and enthusiasm about their mission.

"What was so neat about the whole experience was how excited and committed they were to the whole idea of going out into schools and getting young people excited about science -- that passion for the cause is really the thing that's most important to make these types of programs successful,'' she explained.

Another valuable aspect of the trip was the interaction between both groups and learning about each other?s culture and language, DaSilva said.

"We did a lot of comparing the Norwegian culture to the American culture, [about] random TV shows and movies. We didn't learn Norwegian, but it felt like we did," she joked.

For Marshall, the best part of the trip was getting to know the Norwegian students throughout the week and working on something that they were commonly committed to. "But I also really enjoyed seeing my two ambassadors from Penn State take such a leadership role and do such a great job with mentoring those students," she explained.

DaSilva said the trip further proved the continuing growth of Engineering Ambassadors in its short existence.

"It just shows how this ambassador program, in a little over a year, has really been able to take off and impact so many different areas -- not only in the University, but in other areas, too," she explained. "It's exciting to see that."

  • Penn State students Kim Harrison, left, and Danielle DaSilva discuss how to brainstorm ideas for a presentation with their Norwegian counterparts.

    IMAGE: Melissa Marshall

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 21, 2011