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2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Olivia Jaenicke

2018

Improving representation of women in STEM fields starts with inspiring young girls when they are taking their first advanced science and math classes. As an aspiring mechanical engineer, I hope to focus on increasing the number of young women who study engineering in college.  I believe that girls who are strong in math and science need to be encouraged that engineering is a viable career option for them. Usually, they are simply unaware of what engineering is. I didn’t know what it was in high school and thought that since I was good at math and science, I should just be a doctor.I heard about engineering for the first time as a junior from my AP Computer Science teacher. She told me stories about her daughter who was an engineer and pushed me to study it in college. I did, and that was all it took. We simply need to show high school girls what engineering is and that they can become engineers too.

This can be achieved by expanding programs like Engineering Tomorrow, the company for which I work. The mission of the company is to target high achieving girls when they are juniors and seniors in high school and taking Advanced Placement math and science courses. Engineering Tomorrow hosts conference days for these students, bringing current engineers and engineering studentsto the high school withtwo engineering projects for the students to work on. These projects introduce two different fields of engineering and relate to today’s Grand Challenges of Engineering.Examples of these projects are using block coding to program a robot, exploring machine learning through catapults, and designing a method to desalinate water. Every project also has an aspect of competition. For example, groups will try to build a wind turbine that produces the most power output or build the strongest bridge. This shows students that engineering is exciting and is also based upon teamwork. But before they start these experiments, the students are presented with a list of notable engineering achievements, like bullet proof material, the windshield wiper, and laser cataract surgery, and are asked which ones were created by women. A few students will raise their hands and tentatively offer a suggestion. But they are always correct, because every design on the list is the work of a female engineer. This is repeatedly anempowering moment, and I think by bringing moments like these to high schools across the nation will grow the number of girls who decide to become engineers.

Engineering Tomorrow currently reaches schools in the Archdiocese of New York and is working to expand across the nation. High schools mustembrace programs like Engineering Tomorrow because they already exist in many areas. By encouraging schools to host just one conference day, we will surely see more girls using their talents in the field of engineering. I will do my part by continuing to attend conference dayswith Engineering Tomorrow, as an engineering student, and one day, a working engineer,to share my experiences with young girls who have the potential to become an engineer too.