Chicago-Area Young Women Gear Up For Annual Icebox Derby

Lisa Fielding
July 31, 2019 - 1:36 pm
ComEd Icebox Derby

Photo courtesy of ComEd

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- For the last three weeks, five teams of young women, ages 13-18, have been preparing for race day.

"This Saturday is our annual ComEd Icebox Derby. This is now our sixth year running this program," said Melissa Washington, Vice President, Government, External Affairs, ComEd.

"Saturday we'll have a race of really, go carts that the young ladies designed and built from recycled refrigerators."

Washington said the race is designed to encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

"This idea was first generated to try to educate and expose young ladies to STEM technology," she said. "We found that girls were shying away from anything based upon science and technology. We were seeing that young ladies were getting degrees, but they are under represented in biological sciences, far fewer of them are focusing on computer sciences, engineering, physics or math."

According to the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, women make up 49 percent of the workforce, yet only 26 percent of jobs in STEM-related fields in Illinois.

"We believe that one of the reasons girls shy away from these careers, is because they don't think they are good at it or be interested it in. So we wanted to find away to get them to be interested in and participating in something that is foundationally based on STEM technology and let them have fun at the same time," Washington said. 

ComEd Icebox Derby
Photo courtesy of ComEd

ComEd partners the teens up with some of their female engineers to complete the cars, which are solar powered.

"They work with our women engineers in the company and they design the vehicles, they name the team and they race on derby day," she said.

This summer, nearly 10 percent of former Icebox Derby participants will work at ComEd as interns.

ComEd Icebox Derby
Photo courtesy of ComEd

Washington said the Derby is not only for the participants: The public can take up to 12 social media challenges for a chance to win one of several energy efficient prizes, including a smart refrigerator, smart thermostats and solar-powered phone chargers.

The Icebox Derby race will be held Saturday at Daley Plaza.

Each participant will receive a $1,500 scholarship.