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September 25, 2000

Media Contact: Troy Anderson, (858) 822-3075 or

Editor's Note:


Keys to Empowering Youth (KEYs), an outreach program sponsored by the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) will be the first of 40 "gifts" to the community to commemorate UCSD's 40th anniversary. KEYs seeks to inspire and empower young women to enter the historically male-dominated fields of science and engineering.

Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, an assistant professor of bioengineering and one of the co-founders of the program while at MIT, has been the primary force in establishing this outreach program at UCSD. The first workshop will be held on September 30, 2000 and will be a joint effort between the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)-UCSD Chapter and the Girl Scouts of San Diego. Initially, 30 girls will be selected from Horace Mann Middle School and National City Middle School.

According to Bhatia, "KEYs first began at MIT in 1993 when a group of students, faculty, and staff decided to pool their talents to help address a pressing problem in the community: girls aged 11-13 experienced diminished self-esteem, had few role models in science and engineering, and exhibited declining test scores in math and science. This program brings these youngsters together with college students and faculty to participate in state-of-the-art workshops designed to foster empowerment, awareness, and problem-solving skills, and to demonstrate that science and engineering can be FUN!"

The objectives of this program are to:

  1. Help girls identify their own career and life goals.
  2. Expose them to the excitement of science through interactive, state-of-the-art laboratories.
  3. Allow girls to consider or recognize career choices they may have never considered.
  4. Meet bright, accomplished female engineering students and faculty who serve as volunteer mentors.
  5. Provide the college students who volunteer as mentors an opportunity to share knowledge with younger girls, as well as develop their own confidence, sense of community, and communication and leadership skills.

The schedule on September 30 will be broken down into two parts. In the morning, the girls will participate in role-playing and career planning activities. They will also design and build a protective structure for eggs as part of a teamwork/skill-building exercise. In the afternoon, groups of 10 will visit state-of-the-art laboratories and gain hands-on experience with such things as artificial skin, 3-D computer graphics, and facial expression recognition.

After the initial two middle schools, outreach will continue to focus on schools in the North County Inland, North County Coastal, San Diego Metro, South County, and East County areas. Participation will continue to be on a first come, first served basis. No competitive application will be necessary since those who compete effectively are more inclined to already have an interest in science and engineering. Bhatia, the SWE at UCSD, and the Girl Scouts of San Diego want to attract young women who may never have thought about science or engineering as a potential career.

Ranked among the nation's top ten engineering schools according to the most recent National Academy of Sciences survey and number 15 in the nation by U.S. New & World Report, the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego is an excellent institution in the midst of vibrant growth. Its mission is to educate young men and women to be industry and academic leaders, and to create new innovations that fuel economic prosperity and improve quality of life. The Jacobs School of Engineering awards B.S., M.Eng., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees through five academic departments, providing the largest and most comprehensive engineering education program in San Diego. To learn more about the Jacobs School of Engineering, visit its web site at

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