Alumna Ansari to Share Her Space Travel Adventures during Engineers Week

Posted: February 16, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Freeman

During Mason’s celebration of National Engineers Week, Feb. 19 to 24, alumna Anousheh Ansari, the world’s first female private space explorer, will speak about her experiences traveling to the International Space Station in September 2006.

Her presentation sponsored by the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering is set for Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. in the Johnson Center Cinema on the Fairfax Campus. The event is free, but tickets are required. RSVP to by Friday, Feb. 16. Tickets may be picked up in the Dean’s Office, Room 100 in the Science and Technology II building.

During Engineers Week, the Volgenau School will host many other activities and events dedicated to the exploration of careers in engineering. Students will demonstrate robots and video games they have created, and faculty will present groundbreaking research.

“Engineering is a diverse and exciting profession that allows for the creative application of scientific principles to maintain and improve our daily lives,” says Lloyd Griffiths, dean of the Volgenau School.

“Engineers are responsible for some of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, including automobiles, airplanes, computers, nuclear technologies, highways and spacecraft – just to name a few.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of employed engineers and engineering technicians in 2003, the most recent year for which data is available, was approximately 2,200,000.

Historically, engineering has largely been a profession dominated by white males. However, according to the Engineering Workforce Commission’s most recent degrees survey (2001), women accounted for more than 20 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded, up from less than 10 percent in 1980. Unfortunately, despite the robust growth of women in engineering during the last two decades, the number of freshman female engineering majors has actually been declining over the past couple of years.

Ansari, who immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1984, is doing her part to change that statistic. A living example of the American dream, Ansari immersed herself in education and earned an electronics and computer engineering degree from Mason in 1989.

An active proponent of world-changing technologies and social entrepreneurship, she encourages children to pursue an education in science and math to prepare for a career in engineering that is key to future accomplishments in space.

“Growing up as a young girl in Iran, I fell in love with the stars. I have dreamed of space exploration since childhood, but could never have imagined that one day my dream would come true,” says Ansari. “I hope that my tale of determination, struggle and ultimate triumph will inspire children and women everywhere to dream big, study hard and see obstacles as merely problems to be solved.”

Other activities planned for the week include

  • A document forensics lab highlighting research being conducted on handwriting as a biometric

  • An interactive robotics demonstration including special guest FloorBot, the “below-the-ground” scanning robot from ENSCO Inc., an IT company based in Falls Church, Va.

  • A bridge building contest for local high school students

  • Displays

  • Recruiters from local companies will be available to meet with students, discuss internship and career opportunities and accept resumes

For a full schedule of National Engineers Week activities at Mason, see the web site.

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