Inspiring middle school girls to pursue STEM careers
On April 6, 2019, Olivet Nazarene University hosted the fourth annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering day.
This event serves as an outreach opportunity for Olivet students in the Walker School of Engineering to expose middle school girls to the industries of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through engaging activities and demonstrations.
Over 170 sixth - eighth grade girls from the surrounding community attended the 2019 Introduce a Girl to Engineering day. The Olivet chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) coordinated and provided activity programming for the event, which was sponsored by chemical producer, BASF Corporation.
Kristie Schultz, program specialist in the Walker School of Engineering says, “I think the success of this event is directly related to how well the event is organized by the SWE club council. SWE truly recognizes the importance of stressing STEM type activities for girls in our community and follows through with action.”
Each activity highlighted a different engineering concentration including: mechanical, electrical, chemical, civil and architectural, computer, and biomedical engineering. Students made gliders from office materials and flew them across the atrium Reed Hall of Science; created a chemical reaction to simulate lava lamps using water, vinegar, and Alka-Seltzer tablets; and tested the structural soundness of straw and tape bridges by the ability to hold a cup of pennies, among other activities.
President of SWE, senior Jasmin Folkers, has been involved with the Introduce a Girl to Engineering event since her freshman year. In her opinion, it is an incredibly valuable tool to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM industries.
Jasmin says, “Many young girls don't think that being an engineer is even an option for them. There isn't a lot of awareness of what engineering is until late high school.” She expands, “It's a hard career to define, because it's so vast in what you can do with it and it's not something you see on TV or social media.”
While the number of women STEM has certainly improved, the ratio of women to men is still very skewed. Olivet is above average in terms of female enrollment in engineering programs, with 20% of its students being women.
“Providing opportunities for young girls to learn about engineering is so important because it gives them the interest and confidence that they're smart enough to have a career in math and science,” Jasmin says. “I hope that one day people won't be shocked when I tell them that I'm a mechanical engineer. I want it to be a normalized career for both men and women, so I won't be known as a female engineer, but simply an engineer.”
To learn more about Olivet’s Walker School of Engineering, contact the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-648-1463.