Champions of Change
Karen A. Thole is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and serves as the head of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University.Engineering has historically had low enrollments of women and other underrepresented groups in the discipline. Thole, along with colleagues, established an Engineering Ambassadors Program that empowers female students majoring in engineering with advanced communication skills in using the messages of Changing the Conversation to recruit high school girls into the discipline. The Engineering Ambassadors teach high school students, their parents, and their teachers that engineering can improve the health, happiness, and safety of everyday lives. Through support by the United Technologies Corporation, the Engineering Ambassadors Program has grown to include programs at four universities that reach high school students throughout the Northeast. Thole started her academic career in 1995 developing expertise in gas turbine engines, which power aircraft and produce energy. She works closely with industry and the U.S. Department of Energy to determine innovative ways to cool key components of these engines.