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Engineering Nerd Girls Receive $10,000 from Verizon Foundation

Karen Panetta and members of the Nerd Girls team receive $10,000 from Verizon Foundation's Cissy George

Karen Panetta, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, and members of the Nerd Girls team receive $10,000 from Verizon Foundation's Cissy George, past women's group president. (L to R): Jeff Hopwood, Steve Witkowski, Miriam McLean, Cissy George, Karen Panetta, Heidi Parish, (BS'08), Barghavi Govindarajan, (MS'10), Sadaf Qazi, (MS'09). Photo credit: Rebekah Sokol for Tufts Daily.

Newly received funds from Verizon Foundation will help Tufts' Nerd Girls to continue their engineering projects and educational outreach. This fall, Cissy George, past president of Verizon Foundation's women's group presented Karen Panetta, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and the Nerd Girls with a check for $10,000.

The Nerd Girls, founded by Panetta in 2000, is a group of Tufts engineers—both women and men—who work together to accomplish tangible goals. Panetta and the Nerd Girls team work on several different engineering projects ranging from working with capuchin "helper" monkeys that assist the disabled to designing solar cars. Panetta said that the funding from Verizon Foundation will help the Nerd Girls team monitor the progress on their Thatcher Island project.

Panetta and the Nerd Girls worked with the Thatcher Island Association to return power to one of two lighthouses located on the island off the coast of Rockport, Mass. On June 27, 2007, the entire island was able to go green with the help of the Nerd Girls, using only solar power to generate the island's electricity needs, instead of relying on a badly damaged and often-repaired 6,000-foot power cable that runs out from the coast.

With the extra assistance from Verizon Foundation, the Nerd Girls can create remote, wireless systems that will "monitor storm damage and ensure that no unauthorized individuals land on the island during the off season," said Panetta. "Monitors in the island houses will also help us track the solar power performance of the equipment during different temperatures."

Commenting on the grant award, Donna Cupelo, Verizon president of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said, "As a leader in telecommunications and one of the largest private sector employers in Massachusetts, Verizon understands the need to encourage young women to develop their math and science skills and to explore the tremendous opportunities in the field of engineering, which is so critical to our business, our industry, and our economy."

Julia C. Keller is Communications Specialist for Tufts School of Engineering

Read more about the Thatcher Island project:

Visit the Nerd Girls' website: