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Motorola Grant Aims to Inspire Future Innovators

With the assistance of a $24,000 grant from the Motorola Foundation, talented high school girls from around the country will be awarded scholarships to participate in the 2008 Smith College Summer Science and Engineering Program (SSEP).

The Motorola Foundation, a philanthropic division of the global hi-tech corporation, has given a total of $3.5 million through the Innovation Generation Grant program to support initiatives that aim to build interest in technology-related careers. The grant program was initiated last year with the aim of increasing the percentage of women from underrepresented populations in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. Motorola’s grant award to Smith will provide six full scholarships for high school students of color from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the 2008 SSEP.

Now in its 19th year, the SSEP has hosted nearly 1,400 high school students from 44 states and 50 other countries in its annual program. More than 39 percent of the program’s participants have been students of color, and more than 50 percent have received financial aid.

Each July over the course of the month-long program, approximately 100 high school student participants work with the Smith science and engineering faculty for a minimum of 120 hours in hands-on research courses designed to expose them to cutting-edge technologies while providing insights into the daily life and work of scientists and engineers. For example, in a course entitled Your Genes, Your Chromosomes, students isolate and determine the sequences of their own mitochondrial DNA along with determining their own DNA fingerprints, and in Designing Intelligent Robots, students learn about the fundamentals of robotics and the engineering design process, and then devise a robot that performs a function that they choose.   

“Educating a more diverse pool of scientists and engineers is critical to addressing some of society’s greatest needs and challenges, said Gail Scordilis, director of educational outreach, who launched and oversees the SSEP. “This grant will play a crucial role in making the SSEP accessible to talented girls whose families otherwise could not afford such an opportunity.

According to 2005 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, women comprise just 14 percent of the engineering and architectural workforce and only 27 percent of the workforce in computers and mathematics. Minority groups are similarly underrepresented.

With Motorola’s support, Smith hopes to further inspire talented young women such as those attending the SSEP with a spirit of discovery and invention that will drive the future of innovation.

The SSEP is one of a series of outreach programs and community partnerships supported by the Smith College Office of Educational Outreach.  Please visit, to learn more.

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