INSPIRING STEM STUDENTS THROUGH ENGINEERING PROGRAMS
Lisa Freed is an engineer who spearheads iRobot’s STEM education program that provides opportunities for students and serves as a model program for other companies looking to inspire future generations in STEM.
Each year, iRobot’s STEM program reaches over 50,000 students from preschool through college with a vision into an engineering career and encouragement to stay in the field. iRobot is also the founder and lead organizer for National Robotics Week.
Under her direction, the company brings robots to the younger students so they see first-hand the excitement of STEM and engineering. She also coordinates job shadows, mentoring and other ways of directly impacting students at the high school and postsecondary levels. This year, the company is implementing a new panel of female engineers to visit college seniors and is doing the same at the freshman level.
Prior to her arrival at iRobot, she volunteered with several STEM outreach efforts, including the National Engineers Week Future City Competition. She also founded the first engineering outreach program with the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, an initiative that inspired outreach programs for the American Society of Civil Engineers.
In the words of Lisa Freed:
How can the world increase diversity in STEM fields?
“The only way to increase diversity in STEM is for us to discontinue our self-imposed barriers. The most encouraging experience I have had recently is sitting at a Women in STEM event with a local high school. Those girls do not see any reason they can’t be engineers, or scientists, or doctors. They cannot imagine a barrier. So, once these women get to college and out in the working world, we need to prevent any older misconceptions from stopping them. As role models, we can mentor the younger engineers, we can encourage them, but mostly, we can stop thinking anything is out of the ordinary when a woman is in a STEM field. It’s not. And the younger women don’t think so!”
What can be done to move women forward in STEM?
“Women need role models. They need to see that their passion, their love for robotics, their enjoyment of STEM fields is completely the norm. So, we need to continue to encourage our young girls and women to follow their passions and dreams.”
Where do you see women in STEM in five years?
“I see women working equally alongside men in engineering and other STEM fields. I think the women coming into the field now are strong, and they want to achieve great things. I also believe the men they work alongside no longer stereotype roles. I am excited to see a normalization in the office environment continuing the trend I see now with our young students. The workplace is a much better place, and we need to encourage our women, and men, to keep that trajectory.”