A group of accomplished women makers encourages incoming NYU Tandon students to join their ranks

ZOOM screenshoot displaying panelists of Women Makers virtual event

A screenshot of the recent Women Makers virtual event held during Admitted Student Day

Long before the Maker Movement came to widespread notice, NYU Tandon School of Engineering makers were making their marks; from the locks of the Panama Canal to the first method of mass-producing penicillin, from the ATM machine to cellular technology. In recent years, more and more women have been creating and making at Tandon, and on April 22, several of them took part in a virtual event for admitted students, focused on making women feel welcome, explaining the supportive environment they would be entering, and extolling the wonders of the 10,000-square-foot MakerSpace at Tandon.

The panel, moderated by Amy Dunford, who manages the schools Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) program, included undergraduates Tarah Driver, a civil engineering major who captained the Tandon Steel Bridge team in 2018-19, and Amanda Zhou, a mechanical engineering student who has headed up Tandon Motorsports

The Steel Bridge and Motorsports teams fall under the VIP umbrella, which involves multi-semester projects that span numerous disciplines. The Steel Bridge team, as the name implies, designs, fabricates, erects, and tests a steel structure and enters it into an American Society of Civil Engineers contest each year. The Motorsports team constructs an off-road vehicle from the ground up and races it at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) annual Baja competition.

As Zhou explains:

One of my favorite MakerSpace experiences was spending the day measuring everyone who wandered by to help me get a sense of how to design the most aerodynamic seat. Whatever you’re doing though, if it’s going on in the MakerSpace, it’s going to be fast-paced and fun.” 

While both extolled the benefits of learning skills like welding and laser-cutting, Driver recalled an even more important lesson she had absorbed: 

I was interning on a construction site one day, and the foreman kept calling me ‘sweetheart. At Tandon, there’s an emphasis on respect and equality, and I very calmly asked him to refer to me by my name. He seemed amazed that I would stand up for myself like that, but he complied. It was being immersed in a supportive school environment like Tandon’s that showed me it was OK to demand a seat at the table and appropriate treatment.” 

While erecting bridges and building cars is undeniably fun, other panelists showed that “making” can mean something somewhat different as well. As doctoral candidate Daniela Blanco, who was recently named 2019 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year, explained: 

I consider myself a maker, but I’m also a researcher and entrepreneur. I co-invented a chemical reactor that uses electricity rather than fossil fuel-derived heat to produce nylon, as well as other materials, and I co-founded a start-up called Sunthetics, which is aimed at bringing that work to market and encouraging a more sustainable chemical industry that implements safe processes and reduces emissions. My co-founder, Myriam Sbeiti, was actually an undergraduate when we started the company. Those are the kind of opportunities you can get very early on here, and we were advised every step of the way by our professor of  chemical and biomolecular engineering, Miguel Modestino, so there’s an example of the kind of support you can count on from faculty members.” 

Driver also extolled the faculty members, stating: 

There aren’t many schools where you can just knock on the door of a department chair when you need help, but Tandon is that kind of place.”

Also on hand to round out the panel were Roni Ventura, a mechanical engineering doctoral student who works in Tandon’s Dynamical Systems Laboratory on such projects as the telerehabilitation of stroke victims and the ecological revitalization of the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal, and Luciana Jaalouk, a creative technologist and alum who now serves as the MakerSpace’s Maker in Residence.

“We assembled as diverse a panel as possible, in an attempt to show admitted students the sheer variety of the activities open to them here,” said Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Cindy Lewis, who helped organize the popular virtual event with the aid of the Women at Tandon Committee. “We want every member of the incoming Class of 2024 to be as excited about coming to Tandon as we are to have them!”