Girls meet “the science of better”

May 1, 2012 by Abby Cohn
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Spring 2012

Many of us ponder the complexity and unpredictability of everyday life. Alum and industrial engineering professor Rhonda Righter (M.S.’82, Ph.D.’86 IEOR) makes sense of it. She applies sophisticated mathematical models to such intricate challenges as improving the efficiency of an auto manufacturing plant, triaging casualties after a natural disaster or even shortening the lines at Disneyland.

Ronda Righter working with girls at Techbridge.Ronda Righter working with girls at Techbridge. (Photo by Abby Cohn)Most recently, Righter tackled a completely different assignment: serving as a volunteer role model to 35 middle-school girls.

Visiting an after-school science enrichment program called Techbridge, Righter described her field and how she chose it to a group of students at Oakland’s American Indian Public Charter School. Part instructional and part pep talk, her presentation was intended to introduce the girls to engineering with the hope that they will one day be inspired to pursue studies and careers in it or a related field.

“I’m always saying more girls should be going into these fields, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is,” said Righter. Since stepping down as IEOR department chair last summer, she decided the time was right to answer a Techbridge call for volunteers. This year, the Oakland-based program will expose more than 500 girls throughout the East Bay and South Bay to technology, science and engineering through a variety of classes, mentor presentations and other activities. Some 20 Berkeley students and alumni have signed on as volunteers.