Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day is a one-day, annual event that takes place as part of National Engineer’s Week. Created in response to the low percentage of females studying engineering at a university level and the even lower percentage of woman working in the engineering field, proponents of Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day hope to capture the interest of young girls and break down misconceptions involving women’s abilities in mathematics and the sciences.
This year marked the fourth year that the Texas State University - San Marcos chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has joined The University of Texas at Austin’s Women in Engineering Program (WEP) in hosting the event. For its part in the program, the Texas State chapter of SWE occupied a classroom where students ages 6-8 could build a . This dome is intended to teach the basics of stable building construction, which often incorporates triangle support structures. The girls used toothpicks and gumdrops to create a dome shaped structure that would later pass through a pressure inspection (performed by pressing down on the structure to verify its load-bearing properties). The event was available all day and girls could come and go at will and complete the Gumdrop Dome in their own time. Professor of Industrial Engineering Dr. Clara Novoa explains, “The idea is that no one has to get anxious or frustrated. They have the time they want…if they want to spend 30 minutes, that’s fine. If they want to spend 1 hour, that’s fine.” Dr. Novoa says the kids enjoy the stimulating endeavor and the candy construction materials, “at the end of the activity, we were running a little short because some of the kids wanted extra gumdrops.” Fun and interactive activities such as the Gumdrop Dome are important for young girls to experience during their formative years. As Gabriella Garza, Texas State University - San Marcos SWE chapter president, explains, “The percentage of women in engineering has always been low not only because few women are interested in a math or science degree, but also because of the lack of programs to show younger generations of girls how great a career in these fields can be.” Other Texas State engineering students and faculty in attendance include Kelsey Schorn, Lorena Ryan, Joanette Aird, Selene Basurto-Vazquez, William Murley, and Dr. Maggie Chen. We applaud them in their efforts to change the way young girls perceive engineering.
Dr. Novoa says that “if you continue to give students the motivation to become engineers and they can see the practical importance, then you have a higher chance of getting more female students interested in engineering. When they get to college they have had so many experiences in engineering that they don’t feel shy or afraid…because they know what an engineer does.” With programs like Introduce a Girl to Engineering, it's only a matter of time before women start closing the gap between the sexes in the science and engineering fields.
This year, 5000 girls between grades 1-8 were treated to 41 grade-specific engineering activities on University of Texas at Austin’s engineering campus.