The Woodward School, Pioneer in Women’s Education, Inspires Next Generation of Technology Leaders

QUINCY, MASS. –  The Woodward School, a 122-year-old independent college preparatory school for girls in the heart of Quincy Center, celebrated Computer Science Education Week with an interactive presentation from Quincy-based General Dynamics Mission Systems (GDMS).  Systems engineer and developer Amy Underwood presented in an assembly of the entire school, grades 6 through 12 and faculty, at the school’s original schoolhouse on Hancock Street in historic Quincy Center. In prior years, Woodward celebrated Computer Science Education Week by participating in the national Hour-of-Code initiative, but has since implemented software development as part of the school’s regular academic program.  Underwood’s appearance is part of an on-going speaker series at Woodward where professionals of various disciplines engage students in discussion and presentation.

Underwood presented on GDMS’ development, building, and operating of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and their related real-world applications.  Underwood described the underwater survey and salvage functions for business, science and research, as well as military defense.  She described the different size AUVs, starting as large as 21 inches in diameter, depending on the applications.  A small, 4.875” diameter “Sandshark” AUV was on display during the assembly.

The presentation highlighted engineering disciplines and the importance of math and science in education. Underwood took the students on a journey of problem solving and the critical thinking process, hallmarks of an engineering education.  Taking a large complex challenge and breaking it down into smaller and more manageable pieces and solving for each step in a methodical path of overall problem solving.  “Problem solving is a key component of engineering,” said Underwood, “and it’s best done as a team.”

Underwood addressed student questions, ranging about the challenges of underwater navigation, to the impact on sea life and the environment through the use of AUVs.  Students were inspired by the real-life story of GDMS’ technology in-use for the search to help locate the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the spring of 2014. 

As part of the interactive session, Underwood engaged students in a discussion about education paths and careers, in different engineering fields. Underwood encouraged the girls to follow their interests and to be determined in their pursuits amidst a predominantly male field of endeavor. “Don’t be too hard on yourself…there will be times when you feel like the odd man out, and that perhaps you shouldn’t be there…But that is not the case, no one else is questioning their place and you shouldn’t either.  You will have failures, just like everyone else, but just keep going.”
 “Don’t worry if you are unsure about what you want to do in the future.  Many people, myself included, got to where they are through an unexpected series of decisions,” explained Underwood. “Follow your interests and be open to opportunities, and when you run into a challenge, work for the solution.”

Woodward’s technology program compliments the school’s strong college preparatory program for students in grades six through twelve.  Engineer curriculum includes robotics, software development, 3D design and rendering.  Woodward’s engineering program is an integral part of the schools’ STEAM initiative – the convergence of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with the arts.

From right to left: James Gallant (Faculty), Sheryl Casey (Faculty), Sarah MacDonagh (Student from Norfolk), Amy Underwood (GDMS Engineer), Daria Ramiz (Student from Quincy), Rebecca Truong (Student from Quincy)