RPI Engineering Ambassador Pays it Forward

by admin on February 21, 2019

Sometimes, life come full circle. As a high school student at Schalmont High School in Rotterdam, New York, Rachel Stagnitti looked forward to the days when the RPI Engineering Ambassadors would visit. Today, Stagnitti is a senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and now she is one of the ambassadors making those visits to local schools. You can hear Stagnitti talk about her experience here.

RPI Engineering Ambassadors is an educational outreach program aimed at inspiring middle and high school students to get excited about careers in engineering. Rensselaer engineering students develop and deliver presentations in area schools, and on campus, that highlight the role engineering plays in solving the world’s greatest challenges.

In celebration of National Engineers Week, she shared how her multiple experiences with this program have helped her in her journey to becoming an engineer.

“These kids would come in, and they’d only be two or three years older than me. They would stand in front of a group, and they were just so confident, and it seemed like they knew so much,” Stagnitti said. “I’d sit there in the classroom and say, ‘Wow, I want to be like them someday.’”

Stagnitti was already interested in pursuing an education and career in engineering when the Rensselaer students visited her class at Schalmont. But the Ambassadors amplified her ambition.

“You can talk about an education in engineering or an education at RPI, but unless you see people actually doing it, people actually going through it, it’s not that concrete,” Stagnitti said. “It kind of gave me more of an insight to what it would really be like and something I could maybe participate in while I was there.”

Stagnitti enrolled at Rensselaer, and soon found herself standing in front of a group of high school students.

“One of my favorite things about it is seeing the transformation,” Stagnitti said. “You get kids who really don’t think they’re interested in jet engines, or they’re not interested in wind energy, and they sit through your presentation and they do their hands-on application at the end, and you can see their faces light up.”

The program has taught Stagnitti important presentation and communication skills that she will carry with her after graduation. It has also allowed her to pay forward the instruction she received. In doing so, she has sparked curiosity in students across the region.

A few months ago, Stagnitti was even able to welcome students and teachers from Schalmont to the Rensselaer campus and encourage students like her younger self to follow a similar path.

“It’s personal; it’s close to home for me, it’s something that I can directly impact my community with,” Stagnitti said. “I would hope that I was able to impart on them the same thing that the Engineering Ambassadors were able to impart on me four years ago—that I’ve been able to show them that engineering is something that everybody can do if you put your mind to it. It’s something that’s attainable and it’s everywhere around us, and that just being able to think critically and think about the things that are going on is really important in our world.”