Everyday People: Sydney Gibbard

The biomedical engineering student empowers girls in STEM.

Sydney Gibbard

Hometown: Yardley, Pa.

Claim to fame: Entrepreneur, Schreyer Scholar, Lion Ambassador, and student government leader.

Favorite class: EMCH 210H, Statics and Strength of Materials. “Andrea Argüelles was my first, and only, female engineering professor,” says Gibbard.

Hobbies: Skiing, reading, and visiting her family’s second home in Ontario, Canada.

 

Closing the Gap
“Having role models who look like you within the STEM fields is a privilege,” says junior Sydney Gibbard, who studies biomedical engineering and pre-medicine. In high school, Gibbard wanted to eliminate barriers into STEM—especially for those from underprivileged backgrounds—so she and a friend co-founded the nonprofit Girls Code the World in 2018. That summer, they hosted a free STEM camp for middle school girls from Trenton, N.J.; they targeted that age group since it’s a turning point for when girls’ academic and career interests tend to thrive—or die. “Middle school is when you become aware of how you compare with your peers,” says Gibbard, explaining that building confidence is key. “You start to associate your value with your academic successes.” Their programming has since expanded into mentorships, internships, and more online classes, from robotics to aerodynamics.

Gaining Momentum
Girls Code the World has raised $50,000 in various grants—thanks to Johnson & Johnson, the National Science Foundation, and even a Shark Tank-like competition that aired on WPSU—but the biggest shot in the arm came from Invent Penn State and Happy Valley LaunchBox: Participating in the 2020 Summer Founders Program gave them the funding to operate and the know-how to get established as a nonprofit.

Future Plans
With an interest in global health equity, the Schreyer Scholar is steering toward a career in health care consulting after graduation. She has secured an internship with Boston Consulting Group this summer in Philadelphia.

Having a Voice
Gibbard, 20, has served on student government since her first year and, most recently, as speaker of the assembly. She campaigned for vice president in March and is passionate about the Wellness Fund, which provides subsidized health care through UPUA and University Health Services. Says Gibbard: “I have a larger appreciation for politics and how to influence your community with policy.”