Expanding into UMass Lowell, MassRobotics’ Jumpstart Program is changing that
In the Massachusetts technology sector – which includes STEM and the robotics industry – only five percent of workers are Black, seven percent are Latinx, and one third are women, according to the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC).
That’s why the MassRobotics Jumpstart Fellowship Program was established. Created in 2021 and expanding to a second location at the University of Massachusetts Lowell this year, the program gives underrepresented Massachusetts high school girls a foundation in technical skills as well as mentors and a professional network that provides support and confidence along with direct engagement with industry professionals.
All female high school juniors and seniors, especially those who are Black and Latinx, with a passion for robotics and technology are encouraged to apply.
The program is held on Saturdays from January through May, and includes a full week of sessions and field trips to robotics companies Feb. 19-23 (the state’s public school vacation week). Next, students gain real-world experience through paid internships at a robotics or technology company.
A key part of the Jumpstart program is making sure these young women feel confident and empowered to enter STEM fields. Students learn directly from mentors about the different types of robotics jobs and how to leverage their studies into a career in robotics through lab and company visits.
Students will once again experience technology sessions at the UMass Lowell NERVE Center, which develops test methods and metrics for measuring robot capabilities, human performance, and human-robot interaction.
Julie Chen, a mechanical engineer who led UMass Lowell’s research enterprise before becoming the university’s chancellor in 2022, praised MassRobotics and the Jumpstart program.
“UMass Lowell has worked closely with MassRobotics for years and I have seen firsthand how programs like Jumpstart can fundamentally alter students’ career trajectories,” Chen said. “Connecting students with mentors they can connect with creates a self-reinforcing cycle. The best way to create the strongest technology sector in Massachusetts is by ensuring it is welcoming to all.”
Massachusetts Tech Collaborative, a supporter since the pilot program launched in 2021, will continue to support programming as well as the expansion to UMass Lowell.
“We have seen this program help diversify and grow the talent pipeline for robotics and tech across Massachusetts,” said Carolyn Kirk, executive director, MassTech Collaborative. “Our continued dedication to uplifting a new generation of young women will not only help provide them with the experience and training they need to excel, but it will help strengthen our competitiveness as a state. It’s important that we continue to support programs like Jumpstart that provide opportunities and resources to build upon the progress we have made and ensure that more young women gain experience in critical, emerging sectors.”
Graduating students shared their experiences about the program:
- “I found my passion in engineering and coding, and my future has never felt clearer.” Helena, 2021
- “Entering the professional world is not easy, but this program has worked with us to make this path a lot easier. ” Tairine, 2022
- “It is important for fellowships like this to exist because it creates a space for women of color to bond over their knowledge of STEM. Together, this cohort overcame their shyness and worked as one unit to successfully complete a rigorous program.” Hermione, 2022
- “Jumpstart was a perfect opportunity to be able to interact with other girls who had similar interests in STEM and the robotics field and pretty much anything to do with engineering.” Abigail, 2023
MassRobotics’ resident GreenSight, empowering creators who improve the world at the intersection of robotics, analytics, and automation, is a cofounder of the MassRobotics Jumpstart Fellowship Program.
“GreenSight co-founded Jumpstart because supporting STEM education and helping foster DEI in the tech industry are core goals of our company. Jumpstart allows us to make a noticeable difference in both these areas,” said Joel Pedlikin, co-founder and COO at GreenSight. “To us, the lack of diversity in robotics is an obvious sign that a lot of high-quality talent simply is not able to break into the industry. Jumpstart is a small but significant way for GreenSight to enlarge the pool of U.S. robotics engineers. Years of experience has taught our company how to make excellent use of engineering co-ops and interns, and the Jumpstart interns we’ve hired have made significant contributions to GreenSight.”
For businesses interested in participating as an employer in the Lowell or Boston areas, or those hiring students who have gone through the Jumpstart program for summer employment, please reach out and fill out this form.
You can learn more about the program specifics and timelines here.
Jumpstart is in need of female technology professionals interested in providing expertise during Saturday lessons. Please provide your information here if interested.
MassRobotics is an independent nonprofit organization and innovation hub serving the global robotics community with a mission to help create and scale the next generation of successful robotics technology companies. The organization accomplishes this by providing entrepreneurs and startups with the workspace and resources they need to develop, prototype, test and commercialize their products and solutions. While MassRobotics originated and is headquartered in Boston, it is reaching and supporting robotics acceleration and adoption globally and working with startups, academia, industry and governments both domestically and internationally. See massrobotics.org for details.