Middle School Girls Explore World of Engineering
UT Dallas Participates in National Event With Look Beyond the Stereotypes
Feb. 22, 2010
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day brought 100 eighth- and ninth-graders from the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and Seagoville Middle School to UT Dallas last week for a four-hour program of engineering fun, exploration and networking.
The day’s agenda included interactive activities with the Texas Instruments Women’s Initiative. The youths also interacted with students and faculty from the CHAMPS computer science education program, the Science and Engineering Education Center, Ladies of Vision & Excellence, the UT Dallas chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Academic Bridge Program.
Dr. Magaly Spector, vice president of diversity and community engagement, welcomed the girls to campus and offered them some inspiration with a story about her own remarkable life.
“Events like these are very important because middle school is the time when girls make up their minds about going, or not going, into engineering and science,” Spector said. “Catching their attention and creating an interest in those fields is key. We want to give them a sense that it’s possible, it’s fun and it’s very important that they consider this type of career.”
One of the main missions of the national program is to counteract the dearth of women engineers, who account for only 20 percent of college undergraduates and a paltry 10 percent of the engineering workforce.
“Achieving gender parity in the field of engineering is difficult because of the stereotypes associated with it,” said Poornima Hanumara, a senior telecommunications engineering major who welcomed the students with a speech titled “Who Is an Engineer?”
She hoped to dispel some of the myths about the profession.
“Girls think that engineers are essentially boys with no social skills who spend all day programming alone in a room; or that girls have to be tough and manly to be a successful engineer,” Hanumara said. “A lot of times, engineering is associated with just math and science. It is much more than that.
“We want to try and bust the myths about who is an engineer,” she added. “By introducing the girls to students and professionals in the field, we expose them to the real faces in engineering. The interactive activities give them hands-on experience with engineering problems and the realization that engineering involves creativity, teamwork and art. Most importantly, they will see there are girls in engineering. There are clubs like the Society of Women Engineers that provide support and networking opportunities for women engineers. Girls are few, but not alone in engineering.”
The event was presented by the Office of Diversity & Community Engagement, the Carolyn Lipshy Galerstein Women's Center and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science as part of National Engineers Week.