Nashua students experiment with science

The normal cafeteria chat between ninth- and 10th-grade high school girls isn’t always about science, but that was the scene Thursday during the Girl Power STEM-spiration Seminar at Nashua High School North.

More than 80 underclassmen girls engaged in roundtable discussions with recent female North graduates who are now in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

At one table, Rajia Abdelaziz, Class of 2012, showed off her jewelry to a group of dazzled young ladies. But despite the appearance of the scene, Abdelaziz was talking about technology.

Abdelaziz, 22, and her business partner Ray Hamilton, 22, are the masterminds behind InvisaWear Technologies.

"The problem we are trying to solve is that there is no discreet way to contact help in the event of an emergency," Abdelaziz said.

So in response to that need, the partners are trying to design jewelry with integrated technology that allows the user to subtly alert an emergency contact or police. The technology would connect wirelessly to the user’s phone, and the person could select emergency contacts with an app.

The two are looking for investors and hope to have the product on the market in the next year or two.

Isabelle Brunet, 14, was one of the girls who sat at Abdelaziz’s table.

"I liked the smart jewelry because you can still be girly but get into tech, too," she said.

Across the room, Jessica Shelsky, Class of 2008, stood next to a complex system of pumps and tubes called an organ preservation system.

"It allows the user to monitor the organ while it’s in transport," Shelsky said.

Shelsky is an engineer for Transmedics, the medical technology company that created the device.

Chantal Finlay, 14, said learning about the organ transport machine was her favorite part of the seminar. Finlay said she wants to be a doctor.

"Today opened my eyes about how girls can be interested in engineering and that girls can do anything guys can do," she said.

Michelle Voto is the director of the Nashua Technology Center at Nashua North. The NTC features STEM-centric classes such as health sciences, precision machining and automotive technology.

Classes in the Nashua Technology Center allow students to explore career options and discover what interests them, said Voto, who added that the classes also give context to their core curriculum.

"Students in our woodworking class are building a trebuchet, and they’re teaming up with our physics class, hauling pumpkins across the field," Voto said. "That, to me, is when it becomes real for students."

After the seminar, all students had the opportunity to explore the STEM Fair in the hallway outside the career center. More than 20 companies from a variety of industries hosted exhibits.

Jim Brough, national aviation and space education program manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, hosted a flight simulator at his exhibit. Students had the opportunity to practice landing a plane.

"Part of the reason we’re here today is because we’re looking at a global shortage in virtually every corner of aerospace – over 500,000 pilots, 600,000 mechanics. … We desperately need skilled professionals," Brough said.

Nearby was Cory Drew, of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

"For those who like to work with their hands, we have a great trades program," Drew said. "We offer 24 different trades – everything from machining to being a marine electrician to welding. If you like working with your hands, there’s a trade there that would work for you. And it’s a great program to get into right out of high school, if you’re interested in that."

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-1243, dedry@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_Derek.