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RPI To Host 24th Annual Black Families Technology Awareness Day on February 4

Event introduces hundreds of underrepresented students to STEM fields.

TROY, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will hold its 24th annual Black Families Technology Awareness Day on Saturday, February 4. The event, free and open to the public, is designed to introduce historically underrepresented students in grades K-12, their families, and educators to educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In late 2022, the $52.7 billion CHIPS and Science Act, designed to spur a historic recovery in domestic manufacturing, was passed highlighting the critical importance of STEM education to creating talent for careers in the United States. The Act authorizes new and expanded investments in STEM education and training from K-12 to community college, undergraduate, and graduate education.

“With the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, it is more important than ever that we, as a leading research university, invest in the STEM education of the next generation,” said Rensselaer President Martin A. Schmidt ’81, Ph.D. “It takes one moment or experience to ignite a passion and curiosity in a student. One of the pillars of Black Families Technology Awareness Day is to expose young students to future career options in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is a generation poised to be leaders in the future of STEM in the United States. We are eager to share the energy and excitement that fills our campus.”

“This is such a unique opportunity to show students the power of STEM,” said Lee McElroy, associate vice president and director of athletics and co-chair of the event. “Bringing kids to campus to hear about science and technology, see the labs where groundbreaking research happens, and walk around in an environment focused on learning is the next step in fulfilling the vision of the CHIPS and Science Act.”

“Black Families Technology Awareness Day will offer immersive sessions focused on topics such as astrobotany, coding, energy conservation, space exploration, nuclear engineering, and more,” said Jonathan Wexler, vice president of enrollment management and co-chair of the event.

This year, grade-appropriate workshop topics include “Saving the Turtles,” presented by the Engineering Ambassadors; “How Strong Is Your Bridge,” by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers; and “Nuclear Engineering for Beginners,” from the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn more about the lives of scientists and engineers, college preparation, and STEM careers. 

One high school session will feature Dr. Antar Tichavakunda, author of BLACK CAMPUS LIFE: The Worlds Black Students Make at a Historically White Institution (SUNY Press, 2021), who will  facilitate a student panel discussing the major themes outlined in his book. 

The day, sponsored by National Grid, will begin at 9 a.m. EST with a welcome from President Schmidt. U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden will also offer introductory remarks. Activities will run through 4:30 p.m.

The event was first held in February 1999.
Registration in advance is required. A summary of the program offerings can be found on the Black Families Technology Awareness Day web page. All attendees will receive a free T-shirt and lunch.

Members of the media who plan to attend the event should contact the Rensselaer media relations team in advance at [email protected].

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