Archive for the ‘AAUW Westchester’ Tag

STEM Education and Building the New Bridge

Rebar sample is much heavier than it looks/NNYB Outreach

Eastchester parent Beryn Corham’s son came home excited from school. “He couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that day at assembly,” she says. And teachers are thrilled too. According to Westchester teachers, nothing makes a kid’s eyes open wider than holding a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) like that used in the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge or a strand from one of the stay cables that support the main span roadway.

Educational Outreach

Magic definitely happens when the New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team brings the state’s largest infrastructure into classrooms. During the past five years, the team has visited more than 60,000 students in the tri-state region and made hundreds of presentations to Westchester students, providing opportunities to see and feel construction materials and safety equipment and get them thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Each year the educational outreach program focused on specific aspects of the project.

• Year One (2013-14): Discovery/Geo-tech of the Hudson River
• Year Two (2014-15): Building a Strong Foundation
• Year Three (2015-16): Teamwork and Innovation
• Year Four (2016-17): Bridge Rising

“Looking back, whether it was explaining bridges to a kindergartener or answering complex questions from a high schooler, the real joy was seeing students make the connection between information and understanding,” Public Outreach Coordinator Andrew P. O’Rourke, Jr., says.

With Groups and Clubs

The New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team can tailor presentations to specific groups and clubs as they did at the WizGirls conference hosted by American Association of University Woman Westchester (AAUW) that encourages girls to explore engineering and computer science.

NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas and WizGirls/NYSTA

“WizGirls is an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference for seventh-graders at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale that explores all four STEM fields,” program leader Diona Koerner says.

Female scientists lead hands-on workshops and serve as role models for the students. “We chose this [age] group to attract the girls early when they’re still interested, and they’re excited about it,” Koerner continues. “Last year we had a huge response.”

New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas explained tension and compression to a group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls during a fall 2016 WizGirls conference, after which they applied their new knowledge by assembling mini LEGO® bridges. “Events like [these] are unique opportunities to bring awareness to young women of careers in engineering,” she says.

Combining Fun and Education

During the project’s early years, White Plains Public Library (WPPL) had a Build With K’NEX! program, in which kids built models of the I Lift NY super crane and the new bridge with the colorful plastic pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for kids, while they’re doing something fun, to gain math and engineering skills, to learn how things fit together – shapes, sizes,” says former WPPL children’s librarian Terry Rabideau. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and be creative.”

When the bridge’s main span towers were being built, the project’s Tarrytown and Nyack Outreach Centers added a mini tower crane challenge: participants had to place the tiny construction crew member on a target below using the crane’s controls.

Dan Marcy, who leads presentations with O’Rourke, notes, “Educators are often looking for real-world applications for what they teach in the classroom. Over the years, it has been remarkable to witness how enthusiastic students have been about this project and how they’ve embraced complicated engineering principles, construction components and problem solving.”

Excitement About Local STEM Events

“Learning doesn’t take place in a bubble, and the various components of STEM overlap,” Chairperson and President of STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck, Meg Käufer, explains.

Julpiter Joe’s Astronomy activity allows kids to control a robtic arm at Larchmont’s Hommocks Middle School STEM event. Photo Credit: Alison Mäertins, 2018

The Alliance’s annual festival at Hommocks Middle School in March drew more than 1,200 kids, teens and adults into three hours of fun and learning. Throughout the free Friday night event, attendees could choose activity stations and pre-registration workshops with STEM challenges including a physics lesson in bridge building from O’Rourke, plus marshmallow launchers and a chess master playing multiple games at once.

The annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo, which held its 15th Expo on April 15, brings more than 100 engineering firms, engineering colleges and public agencies together to introduce students to engineering and technology careers, according to McLaren Engineering Group President and CEO Malcolm G. McLaren, PE.

This West Nyack-based firm is a major benefactor and organizer of the event that incorporates numerous engineering fields whereas it once focused primarily on civil engineering, according to McLaren.

Attendance has grown, attracting students, colleges and corporations from a large geographic area. One typical and interesting observation was of a student who, initially hesitant to walk through the door, became so absorbed he was reluctant to leave when his mother called to him.

In the Classroom

More than 200 students attended Heathcote School’s March HExpo workshops. “It was hands-on, daylong and feedback was positive,” fifth-grade teacher Christine Boyer says. “The kids loved it and saw it as having fun, digging deeper and learning.” When they were using screwdrivers to take appliances apart, “the wheels were turning, and the learning was happening.”

Teamwork building a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“One of the greatest joys was seeing students’ eyes light up after answering their questions because it unlocked the door to knowledge, ignited their curiosity and gave them a personal connection to the project as they watched history rising in their own backyards,” says O’Rourke who participated in the event.

In the STEM program that Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood designed for her third- and fourth-grade students at Ossining Union Free School District, the younger grade studies electricity, and the older one studies bridges.

Samantha, a Claremont student, loves stem “because I get to experience science, technology, and engineering and math projects at a very young age,” while her classmate Sienna enjoys the variety of activities. “We have a chance to ask questions, imagine and plan and then we create things and talk about how we can improve them.”

Lockwood’s students used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge. “We spent a lot of time focusing on cable-stayed bridges since this amazing project is happening one town away from us,” Lockwood says.

Combining Imagination and Concepts

Technology teacher Anthony Rich introduced 3D design to his students at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson Schools in the Eastchester Union Free School District by using a web-based program called TinkerCAD about three years ago.

“The fourth- and fifth-graders get a half-year of Coding with a program called Scratch and a half-year of 3D design and printing,” Rich explains. While the older children create their own designs, the younger students are learning program basics and concepts.

Ducky, a fourth-grade student at Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester, likes 3D printing “because I can create anything I can imagine and I can invent and print new things. It lets you have the ability to imagine, plan, then build anything you want.”
Käufer sums it up nicely. “STEM is important because it gets kids thinking in new ways and changes their thought processes. There’s no minor league for STEM.”

Night before new bridge’s westbound span opened/NYSTA

A Work of Art!

ArtsWestchester celebrated the new bridge as a work of art at its gala 2017 fundraiser last November as CEO Janet Langsam feels STEAM education (adding the arts to STEM) is crucial to educating the next generation of creative thinkers. “Art increases motivation, enhances communication and expression and, like science, it helps inspire innovation and critical thinking,” she says.

For information about outreach presentations, contact Andy O’Rourke at or 845-918-2516 or visit

My article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Westchester Family.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

WizGirls Conference focuses on STEM Learning


If you can’t work on the New NY Bridge project, then build one of your own.

That’s what a group of 6th- and 7th-graders did Saturday morning after NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas described different bridge structures like suspension and tension bridges, and projects she’s worked on during her 34 years as an engineer.


Barbas’ presentation was part of a WizGirls conference hosted by AAUW Westchester to encourage girls in grades 4 to 7 to explore engineering and computer science.

“WizGirls aims to encourage girls to explore STEM because they tend not to enter those fields,” Branch Co-President Diona Koerner explained. “It’s an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale for 7th-graders that focuses on all the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.”


Building a LEGO® bridge is a lot more difficult than it looks even with step-by-step directions. Thank you to Rich, the LEGO® expert, who guided me from fumbling with the pieces to a complete bridge.

Photos courtesy New York State Thruway Authority.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

Project Update Supports AAUW STEM Outreach

Listening intently at the Greenburgh Public Library/NNYB

Listening intently at the Greenburgh Public Library/NNYB

“It’s amazing the way the build off the construction site and then bring pieces to the site and lift them in place,” Selena Barron commented after a recent presentation to the American Association of Women’s Westchester branch.

She and Program Co-vice president Stephanie Lemnios select speakers and topics that fit AAUW Westchester’s goal: to promote equal opportunity for women in all fields and to interest girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

“We heard him (Brian) speak last year and knew we wanted him to return again as the project progressed,” Barron, said. “The presentation was terrific. He answered all our questions and covered every aspect of it.”

”The New NY Bridge is a historic project that has generated enormous interest. The goal of all our public outreach meetings, like the discussion with the American Association of University Women, is to educate and inform everyone about the extraordinary efforts being undertaken to build this new bridge that will last for generations to come.” — Brian Conybeare, Special Project Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo

While the bridge project is massive, AAUW’s outreach is as well.

Started in 1881, its more than 170,000 members and supporters nationwide are within 1,300 local branches, including 190 members in Westchester and more than 800 college and university partners.

Last month AAUW and the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale hosted the 12th Annual Explore Your Opportunities Conference. Another program is $tart $mart, a pay negotiation workshop for college juniors and seniors that addresses gender wage gaps.

AAUW-Westchester’s Jane Pendergast was honored in 2013 at the  YWCA of White Plains/AAUW Westchester

AAUW-Westchester’s Jane Pendergast was honored in 2013 at the YWCA of White Plains/AAUW Westchester

Running and Winning Workshop encourages high school girls to run for public office and is sponsored by AAUW, the League of Women Voters of Westchester and the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester.

“Doing outreach is wonderful,” Barron said. “I learned about their presentations to schools, and (about) women entrepreneurs who have contracts and women on the job working.”

The meeting was co-sponsored by AAUW and the Greenburgh Nature Center, whose programs relate to the environments.

“We do a lot of presentations and have programs that are diverse,”  Director of Conservation Education Anne Jaffe Holmes said.

The Community Outreach Centers and viewing area in Tarrytown — another one is being built in Nyack — are a great way for the public to see the project and its various elements of bridge construction, Holmes said. “They draw people in to the exciting nature of infrastructure projects. They’re fascinating, and there’s much to be learned from the process, environmental impact and remediation.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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