White House honors UW program for mentoring students with disabilities

September 10, 1997

DO-IT has done it again.

The University of Washington's Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology program, which has enlisted scientific luminaries such as British physicist Stephen Hawking to encourage teenagers with disabilities to pursue careers in technical fields where they are underrepresented, has won a 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

Sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science and Technology Council, the awards seek to identify outstanding programs for mentoring underrepresented groups in science, math and engineering fields to serve as national models. The awards, which include a $10,000 grant, will be presented Thursday at a White House ceremony led by John Gibbons, assistant to the president for science and technology.

"This award recognizes the contribution of the DO-IT mentors in the successful transition of program participants to college and careers," says Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT director, who will attend the Washington, D.C. ceremony along with Kristin Otis, a mentor and counselor coordinator with the program. "One of the best ways to help students with disabilities understand the tremendous opportunities open to them in science, engineering and math is for them to interact with other students and with professionals who already have overcome barriers to succeed in these fields."

Founded in 1992, DO-IT targets high school students with disabilities who are interested in careers in science, math or engineering. Each summer, participants spend two weeks at the UW attending labs and lectures to get feel for college life and meeting with faculty and student mentors, many with disabilities themselves, to learn how new technology is making it easier for them to pursue degrees and careers in fields once thought out of reach.

Throughout the year, DO-IT scholars use home computers and electronic mail to communicate with one another and with mentors from around the world. These cyber-relationships provide a sense of community and a source of encouragement to the students as they overcome common challenges to pursue their goals Computers, modems and adaptive technology are provided for participants who don't have their own. DO-IT is sponsored primarily by the National Science Foundation and administered by the UW College of Engineering and UW Office of Computing and Communications.

DO-IT was among 10 individuals and nine institutions to receive a 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Now in its second year, the award is an outgrowth of President Clinton's 1994 science policy blueprint, Science in the National Interest, which outlined two goals: to produce the best trained scientists and engineers for the 21st century and to enhance scientific and technological literacy of all Americans.

In addition to the White House award, DO-IT won first place in the 1995 National Information Infrastructure Champions of Cyberspace awards program for its innovative and practical use of the Internet and was featured in the president's summit on national service earlier this year for its creative use of technology in promoting volunteer mentoring.

For more information, contact Burgstahler or the DO-IT office at (206) 685-3648 and


Greg Orwig
Engineering News Writer

University of Washington
Office of News and Information, Box 351207
Gerberding Hall, Room B-54
Seattle, WA 98195

206-543-2580 (phone)
206-685-0658 (fax)