Empowering Communities

The future (of STEM) is female

May 6, 2019

What do you want to be when you grow up?  For many students, the answer to this question will change many times before they start their career. But for Rachel Kohl, the answer has always been the same.

Kohl always wanted to become an engineer. During her junior year of high school, she learned about ComEd’s Icebox Derby – a program that educates and empowers young women to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Kohl applied and was one of 30 girls accepted.

“I thought the program sounded fun,” Kohl said. “Only girls are able to apply for the program, and you don’t see that in engineering.”

Kohl and the other participants worked alongside ComEd mentors to transform recycled refrigerators into electric and solar-powered racecars. The derby cars were then put to the test on a race track at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago in a competition to win the STEM Cup, scholarships and other prizes.

Besides sharpening her STEM skills, Kohl learned about collaboration, leadership and what makes a team successful.

“I became a better leader and teammate. Everyone is coming together from different backgrounds,” Kohl said. “I was the oldest one on the team, so I brought everyone together.”

Kohl is now a freshman pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Milwaukee School of Engineering.  Although she is miles away from Chicago, she keeps in contact with her fellow Icebox Derby girls – especially her Blue Quest team.

“I still talk to a lot of the girls. The friendships made are long lasting relationships,” she said.

Kohl urges girls who are interested in STEM to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I would highly recommend applying to be a part of the Icebox Derby. It’s such a great experience to work with other girls, and it gives you a chance to explore STEM more freely,” she said. “Everyone is supporting each other, and it’s a fun experience overall.”

Girls ages 13 to 18 in Illinois can apply for the 2019 Icebox Derby through June 7. For more information or to apply go to https://iceboxderby.com.