Middle-school girls try out engineering for a day

Introduce a girl to engineering day

During the CSU Society of Women Engineers Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, students learned how to solder at the Powerhouse Energy Campus. 

An event facilitated by women, for girls, Colorado State University’s inaugural Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day welcomed about 80 middle-school students and their parents to campus to learn about opportunities in STEM.

The April event was hosted by the CSU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The CSU students encouraged the girls in attendance to discover the different disciplines of engineering, meet current engineering students, and learn how engineers can make the world a better place.

The idea for the day was inspired by Pretty Brilliant, a semester-long program CSU SWE hosted in 2015 to provide young girls with hands-on design engineering experience. With involvement from 14 women in CSU SWE, representatives from other STEM student organizations around campus, and $2,500 in seed money from Atkins, the students were able to craft an all-day event that engaged girls as far as Denver and Cheyenne.

“It was really cool to see how engaged everyone was. I don’t know what’s more adorable: middle-school girls getting excited about engineering activities, or engineers excited to interact with middle schoolers,” said Stephanie Higgins, CSU SWE president.

The day’s activities took place in the Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr. Bioengineering Building on central campus, where students participated in engineering activities led by student organizations. The students also spent time at the Powerhouse Energy Campus, where the girls took a tour of the facility, learned about regenerative braking, and practiced soldering.

introduce a girl to engineering day

A regenerative braking demonstration during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. 

While the middle-school girls were engaged with activities, their parents had the opportunity to attend two panel sessions. The first, led by Anthony Marchese and Aaron Benally of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, focused on what makes engineering at CSU unique, and how parents can prepare their children for an educational career in engineering. Olivia Brey, past CSU SWE president and currently a traffic engineer at Atkins, discussed what it’s like to be a female engineer.

“I shared my perspective on what it’s like to get a job and be a woman in the field. It sounded like most of the parents there had already gotten their children involved in other STEM activities, and it was great to hear these parents have access to better resources these days,” said Brey.

Next year: Introduce more girls to engineering

The event was a success for students, parents, and volunteers alike, and CSU SWE plans to do it again next year. It was also a learning experience for the planning committee.

“Our first steps will be to expand the event to include more girls and utilize more locations. Now that we have a better understanding of the curriculum and the number of girls we can accommodate, we can broaden the age range of participating students, too,” said Meena Rezaei, CSU SWE member and outreach director for the event.

Not every girl gets the opportunity to learn about STEM careers as early as middle school, but events like Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day serve to help close the gender gap and encourage more girls to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields.