Teen girls race their fridge cars in ComEd’s Icebox Derby

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Young women who participated in the 4th Annual ComEd Icebox Derby are photographed with ComEd officials and mentors after the race. A racetrack built around the Picasso at the Daley Center was where the event was held Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

By Sharon Fountain, Chicago Crusader

As the summer comes to an end and the school year begins, 30 young women from across the Chicagoland area will return to school with a unique team building experience and the determination of a NASCAR driver competing for a winner’s cup.

The culmination of their work came on August 12 as six teams of five girls raced their newly transformed fridge cars around the Picasso at the Daley Center to win the Icebox Derby STEM Cup and other prizes. Following a tight and exciting race, team Orange Flare emerged as the winners and they were awarded the STEM Cup.

“We developed the Icebox Derby to expose young women to a unique STEM experience and learn from ComEd mentors about their journey to a STEM-focused career” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. “Working together, they’ve done amazing work to prepare for the Icebox Derby race. We’re hoping that these young women will be inspired by this experience, the work of their mentors and team members and continue on a STEM pathway, and one day come back to work for ComEd. They are our workforce of the future.”

The Violet Vortex team photographed with their purple car made from old refrigerators from ComEd’s Fridge and Freezers Recycling program.

It’s an exciting experience for many of the girls who found out about ComEd’s Icebox Derby program either from friends, family or school staff. As the young women prepared for the race, three of the girls stepped away to tell the Chicago Crusader Newspaper about their experience.

Miya Clay is a student at King College Prep High School with aspirations of becoming an obstetrician or an electrical engineer. She also desires to have a military background after completing college. With a love for engineering and passion for working with her hands, she has competed and won several robot competitions with entries she built with her brother. When asked what will she take away from her ComEd Icebox Derby experience, Miya said, “I built a car and I got to meet people I didn’t think I would ever meet.”

All three girls want to be trailblazers in their community after they have achieved their career goals.Their passion is to make STEM careers accessible to other women an minorities.

Ani Smart plans to do that by encouraging others to pursue STEM careers after she obtains a biomedical engineering degree. Her goal is to travel the world doing research in disease prevention with her degrees in medicine and engineering. She attends Walter Payton College Prep and was excited when her application was accepted for the Icebox Derby. She learned about the program from news coverage of the event last year. The ComEd STEM program gives her “exposure to the engineering side of STEM,” said Smart. Her team in the derby is called, “Violet Vortex” and Smart said they were a winning team because “we work together and I can tell we are very smart and efficient.”

ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore (left) congratulates the winning team–Orange Flare, and their mentors as they hold up the Icebox Derby STEM Cup.

Often times students shy away from applying to programs because they fear being denied acceptance. Kiarra Pearson said she learned to “take bigger risk—to go ahead and try” from the application process. Her school counselor told her about the program and although she applied, she didn’t think she would get accepted. Now she has more confidence to pursue new challenges and despite unwarranted fears, she will give other opportunities a try.

Pearson likes science and wants to pursue a career in pharmacy after majoring in biochemistry. Pearson said, “This is like a new experience for me. I didn’t have any engineering experience so it was all new for me.” Handling a screwdriver and tools was a new experience that she and the other girls became efficient at using. She also extolled the merits of collaborating. “I’ll take away collaborating with others because I feel like in my group we are all strong in different areas of STEM. So the greatest thing is collaborating with others, said Pearson.

All three girls have researched summer internship opportunities with ComEd because they said, “It sounds like a really great place.”

If you missed the Icebox Derby race, you can relive the excitement and find out more about the program by visiting www.iceboxderby.com.

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