In This Issue
Real Story: Lauren Jones
Have you ever?
Real Story: Danielle Vardaro
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Meet Dr. Karen Panetta - founder of the Nerd Girls

karen pDr. Karen Panetta is the "Princess Warrior" of Engineering and Science education. She has championed young women to embrace their creative talents and brain power to innovate cool technology that has the power to improve the lives of individuals, communities, and the environment.  Karen has been recognized for her unwavering commitment to promoting the image of the "Nerd Girl" as a talented well-rounded woman that can take on any challenge to solve real world problems.

Karen and her Nerd Girls have personally conducted outreach activities to over 25,000 young students, parents and community leaders across the United States and have inspired new Nerd Girl clubs in middle schools and high schools around the world.

In her capacity as the past World Wide Director of the IEEE Women in Engineering, Karen has traveled around the world interacting with youth and their families. From these experiences, Karen and her students have used their engineering skills to develop technology to help improve the lives of autistic children and their families. This work has given a voice to this silent population and has helped get these children the resources they need so they can thrive and live healthier lives.

In the U.S. , Karen and her Nerd Girls have saved a National Historic Landmark using solar energy technology, while ensuring the safety of the wildlife that call the site of the Landmark "home". The Department of Energy has described Karen and her enthusiasm for promoting clean and green energy as "Renewable Energy in High Heels."

Karen and two DigiGirlz

Karen has now partnered with MPH Entertainment, Producers of the Award Winning Show, "The Dog Whisperer", to bring her Nerd Girls to television.  The series will show young women changing the lives of those they interact with by using their keen imaginations along with their math, science, and engineering skills to develop technology that will help benefit humanity and change the world.

Awards and Recognition

+ Recipient of the Norm Augustine Award for communicating the wonders of engineering to the public. Previous recipients of this prestigious award from the National Academy of Engineering and Sciences, American Association of Engineering Societies, included Astronaut Neil Armstrong. 

+ "Be the Change Recipient" at the Massachusetts Conference for Women for her Award Winning Nerd Girls methodology.

+ The only educator awarded "Mass High Tech All-Star" by the Mass High Tech Magazine.

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Crazy but true...  

One of earth's oldest animals inspires the planet's newest
         engineering developments ---------------------------------------

John Dabiri is a MacArthur Award winner and aeronautics and bioengineering professor at Caltech who studies how jellyfish physiology can inform the design of new wave and wind technologies.  By examining the extremely simple but efficient anatomy and propulsion of jellyfish, Dabiri hopes to help build underwater vehicles and wind energy generators inspired by nature.  It turns out those mysterious, translucent creatures are good for something other than pesky stings at the beach!

Intel - Computer Engineer
B.S. Computer Engineering
M.S. Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

I grew up in the suburbs in Wakefield, Rhode Island.  My father was a lobster-man out of Point Judith, and my mother was a part time artist making Christmas ornaments out of starfish tragically captured in my father's lobster pots.  My family history had no engineers, so I don't know what motivated me to attend a computer programming class after school in second grade.  I remember being the only girl there, and wondering why. My father had a deck-hand work for him one summer who was a fourth grade teacher.  He told my father that if he didn't buy me a computer, I would eventually be at a disadvantage in school.  So, my dad went out and bought me a Macintosh Performa 575, put it on my desk and left me to figure out how to use it. I became very proficient at using computers, and was fascinated with how fast they were evolving.
         At the beginning of high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer.  I took classes in textiles and fashion design, and found them interesting and fun, but not challenging.  I decided to focus on math and science instead, because it was more challenging and I knew it would open more doors for me in the future.  I could always go back to fashion, but I knew that if I missed the math and science, I would fall behind forever.  In my junior year, I took a computer programming class.  The class consisted mainly of senior boys.  I out-programmed them all. My guidance counselor suggested that I give engineering a try since I was very strong in math and science and had shown interest in computers.  I was accepted at Tufts and chose to attend because of the high female enrollment and the options to transfer out of engineering if I didn't love it.  Although I tried out many engineering disciplines while in college, I never considered transferring out.  After trying Chemical, Mechanical, and Human Factors engineering, I selected Computer Engineering due to my ongoing interest in computers and programming and my curiosity about what was going on inside these metal boxes.  I was fascinated with the rapidly growing high tech fields, and the growing use of cell phones, digital cameras and mp3 players.  I saw a lot of interesting career options, and planned on going straight to work after undergrad.
            After interviewing for many jobs and getting a few offers, I decided at the last minute to apply to graduate school just to see what kind of opportunities were out there.  When I was accepted to Berkeley, I couldn't say no to the amazing opportunity to work with the top researchers in the world.  I received an amazing scholarship to study integrated circuits (the building blocks of the microprocessors and other chips in your laptops and portable devices), and gave academia a try.  The challenge was unparalleled and I learned more in two years than I think I had in the previous ten.  While the experience was great, academia was not for me.  I prefer to be closer to products that people use, and have been working at Intel for the past year.  At Intel, I influence the next generations of microprocessors that power a wide range of devices that define our lives.  We build the most complicated product on earth, and the technology that our microprocessors power is improving the quality of life of billions of people. 

      Sometimes I look back and wonder what my life would be like now if I had pursued fashion design instead of engineering.  To be honest, as a Nerd Girl, I have probably had more amazing opportunities in the fashion and entertainment world today then I would have had otherwise.  I was in a fashion shoot, met famous designers, and even had a few television appearances.  While I love fashion, I love promoting engineering even more.  A career in engineering is challenging, lucrative, and gives you opportunities to improve the lives of others and solve the world's problems.  Plus, now I can afford the ultimate fashion statement: Gucci and an iPhone.

Creative Applications

+ Lauren's upbringing already seems like something out of a movie: the bright daughter of a lobster-man and artist travels across the country to become a computer engineer.  People who pursue dreams far from home or far different from family traditions make for interesting and engaging stories.

+ You probably could not be reading this e-mail without the help of the Intel microprocessors that Lauren helps to design.  Computer engineering powers the world we live in today.  Consider depicting how a the creative problem solving skills of a computer engineer can be heroic when computer malfunctions threatens national security or international relations.

+ A teacher hauling lobster one summer had an immense impact on Lauren's life by urging her dad to buy her a computer.  Many engineers and scientists can pinpoint one person or event that shaped their career.  Watching YOUR production can be the reason a ten year old decides to become an engineer.

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Volume I, Issue VII
November 2010
A Spotlight Message from Brian Dyak
EIC President and CEO

You may notice that our seventh issue of Spotlight On: Engineering looks a little different than the rest.  It's a little more feminine and a lot more pink.  Now, here at the Entertainment Industries Council we are not into stereotypes but we wanted to do something special to introduce The Nerd Girls, a group of awesome women engineers who excel in their science, engineering and technology careers while proving that smart can be sexy and feminine. 

Founded by Dr. Karen Panetta, a professor at Tufts University, to empower her female engineering students and challenge the stereotypes and myths about women in engineering, the Nerd Girls are committed to challenging stereotypes about women in science, engineering, technology and math.

The Nerd Girls firmly believe:
Brains are beautiful
Geek is Chic.
Smart is sexy.
Not either/or.

Starting with this issue, the Entertainment Industries Council will be bringing YOU the stories of these amazing, inspiring and stereotype-defying women, told from their unique perspectives.

Have you ever?
Driven a car in the rain?

Carried groceries in a paper bag?

Used a computer at work?

Worn a bullet-proof vest?

Okay most of us probably haven't done that last one, but we still have pioneering women inventors to thank for making these every day activities possible.  In 1903, Mary Anderson received a patent for the windshield wiper, making it possible for automobile drivers to clear their rainy windows.

Margaret Knight was a mill worker who was constantly inspired by her surroundings.  At the age of 12, she created a device to automatically stop a machine when something was caught in it, helping to prevent many tragic accidents.  Decades later, when she realized that the paper bags made at her plant would be more efficient with flat bottoms, Margaret came up with the machinery to fold and glue the bags in the flat-bottomed style we still use today!  Her story even has a villain: Charles Annan spied on the inventor and tried to steal her idea, arguing that a woman could never design such an innovative machine.  Thankfully Ms. Knight was successful in defending her claim to the idea and received a patent in 1871.

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper helped invent the first user-friendly business computer software program in the early 1960s as the Director of Automatic Programming for Remington Rand.  And in 1971, chemical researcher Stephanie Kwolek discovered a key ingredient that led to invention of KevlarŪ, a material five times as strong as steel and the primary ingredient in bulletproof vests.  We hope you won't ever need one, but if you do, you'll have a woman inventor to thank!
Boeing -Everett Flightline Liaison Engineering Production Support Engineer
B.S. Mechanical Engineering 
M.S. Mechanical Engineering

I grew up in a family and environment where I didn't think I was any different than anyone else. I played three sports a season, went to ballet after building complex Lego's villages and machines, and to piano practice after spending hours on Nintendo. I was a Girl Scout that enjoyed arts and crafts, pottery, and baking just as much as fishing, camping or hiking. I had a healthy mix of friends-both girls and boys, and didn't think twice about spending one afternoon looking for snakes and playing tee ball and the next afternoon playing with dolls and throwing tea parties. I loved math club and science lab as much as cooking class. I spent weekends at sports games or tinkering with my Dad-a self-employed Electrician-and in his tool shed where I learned inside tricks of the trade that later became the starting blocks of my mechanical engineering career.

There was nothing "unusual" or different about these activities for a child in the Vardaro family. The "you can do anything" and the "if you're going to do it, do it well" mindsets were the only things we knew. Looking back on my childhood, I don't think I would call myself the classic tomboy or science geek. I was just that kid who was always asking "why" and requesting a how-things-work explanation. I constantly sought out a better solution to various problems-inside and outside the classroom-and enjoyed hands-on problem solving.  I always took the time to break stuff down to figure it out mentally and physically. I think if you were to poll the teachers, friends, mentors and coaches of my youth, they would say that I was an individual with a passion for everything, and someone driven by things that presented a good challenge.

I decided to pursue a degree in engineering near the end of my high school career because it seemed like the most logical next step. Sure I was one of those students who was really good at math and science, but more importantly I was someone who enjoyed academics and excelling academically. Over time I learned that I do really enjoy the engineer's approach to learning, the "nerdy" stuff and all the numbers. But when it comes right down to it, I chose math and science because it was more challenging and more rewarding, and I love to problem solve.

The first time I noticed that there were so few females in engineering was when I became part of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) during my freshman year in college. I was asked by a fellow member Is it hard to be a minority? I thought to myself: Wow, I can't believe I didn't notice that I was outnumbered! It was at that moment when I realized I wanted to do something. My involvement with SWE and my interactions with female engineers at the collegiate level increased my awareness that we as a society have a huge problem with the female presence in engineering and science. I became compelled to take action and I needed to be one of the pioneers that would make a difference in the way engineering and science was viewed by females. I became intent on sharing my positive experiences with my female peers, and recruiting young minds to engineering so that they too could realize how incredible the options and opportunities really are.

I graduated from Tufts University in 2007 with a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering. I just completed my Masters in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington, which I pursued while working full-time at Boeing as a Flightline Support Engineer for 747/767/777 throughout production, test and delivery. I continue to love learning and engineering a little bit more every day.

I have my parents to thank for teaching me not to worry about what other people think but instead focus that energy on ones personal goals and make the most out of the opportunities that arise in your own life. They were the ones who taught me to set bigger goals, push my limits, and take on new challenges-and because of that I welcome the opportunity to be a female in aerospace, to take my experiences and knowledge to the next level and to break stereotypes along the way.

Creative Applications

+ Danielle didn't even realize that she was outnumbered until a fellow female engineer pointed it out.  When she recognized the state of women in her field, she was inspired to make a difference.  Consider depicting the transformation of a female engineering student from learner to problem-solver when she becomes passionate about an issue, whether it be breaking down stereotypes or figuring out how to design a device for a friend in need.

+ As a liaison engineer, Danielle is responsible for engineering solutions and technical support during manufacturing to make sure that Boeing's products are technically, functionally and aerodynamically correct.  In Danielle's case, the machines being manufactured are the airplanes that millions of people fly in each day.  Try to imagine a world without flight line liaison engineers...we would be literally grounded!

+ Danielle was fortunate to grow up in an environment where building with Legos was as encouraged as practicing ballet.  Not every girl is so lucky.  Can you depict a strong young female who rises above the pressures of her traditional culture to pursue a career in engineering or science?  (Oh, and she should also manage to look great while striding ahead!)
Pauley PerretteWhen we are talking about all of these cool, smart and talented women, we can't forget Abby Sciuto from NCIS, a perfect example of how Hollywood can depict a pretty awesome female scientist.  We are thrilled to have the actress who portrays her, Pauley Perrette, promote the importance of science, engineering and technology through our "Ready on the S.E.T. and...ACTION!" campaign.
The brand-new campaign includes public service spots, and the important Call For Entries for the  new S.E.T. Awards recognizing the accurate depiction of these fields in entertainment and news programming.  So far, we have over 75 submissions with more on the way.

NOW is your last chance to submit before the Nomination Review begins.

  For more information on the awards, contact EIC's Executive Vice President, Larry Deutchman ( and don't miss Pauley's public service spot HERE.

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