Thursday, February 20, 2014

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Today is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  Started in 2001 as a joint effort between NSBE, IBM and the National Engineers Week Foundation, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is a national effort to show girls how creative and collaborative engineering can be and how engineers are changing the world.  Here at Penn, yesterday we celebrated a little early by having 50 5th grade girls on campus and we spent the day showing them some of the cool things engineers here are working on and studying.  At the end of the day, the kids were bouncing around with excitement (and some sugar as we had made nitrogen ice cream!) and we were exhausted but it got me thinking about the fact that we can't bring everyone here to campus for that kind of action packed day so how can we translate the excitement?  Here are some suggestions to get the girls in your life excited about engineering:


1-Help explain what it is and point it out deliberately in every day life!  Let's face it, most people don't have any idea what an engineer does and would be shocked if they knew how widespread it was.  At the beginning of every program I ask kids what they think engineers do and without fail someone talks about trains or cars.  While working with trains and cars is cool and there is certainly a lot of engineering involved in both, there are tons of other areas where engineers are doing very exciting things that have nothing to do with cars or trains.  Did you know that engineers are involved in make-up formulation?  ice cream?  prosthetic limbs?  water conservation?  animation?  What if you don't know anything about engineering?  There are tons of resources that can help!  Here are a few:

http://www.discovere.org/our-programs/girl-day
http://www.engineeryourlife.org/
http://www.engineergirl.org/
http://www.techbridgegirls.org/
http://www.ngcproject.org/

Some of these are for the girls themselves (engineer your life and engineer girl) and some are for parents or teachers to educate themselves about engineering.  I promise if you take a few minutes, its easy to learn a little about the field.

2-Do cool activities with girls!  The best way to get girls excited about math and science is to do hands on activities with them.  Almost all the resources above have an activities section with easy to follow activities that mostly use household products.  In addition, resources like these have great step by step instructions:

http://teachers.egfi-k12.org/
http://pbskids.org/designsquad/build/

In addition, lots of local Society of Women Engineers chapters host outreach events for kids.   Use their website to find a local chapter either in your city or at a local university and ask them if they are hosting anything.

3-Play games -Whether its legos or computer games, building blocks or GoldieBlox, research shows that playing games is correlated with interest in engineering and the development of spatial abilities that are crucial to engineering.  A few programs of interest:

http://scratch.mit.edu/
http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/
http://www.alice.org/index.php
http://www.autodesk.com/products/autodesk-maya/overview
http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/?domainredir=mindstorms.lego.com (robots are not free but the software is)
http://sewelectric.org/

4-Watch cool videos - With Youtube you can find almost anything including cool engineering videos.  Here are a few of the ones we showed our fifth grade visitors yesterday and they loved them!

Robots play the James Bond Theme Song
Soccer playing robots in the Robocup final
RHex all terrain robot
Judy Lee:Mechanical Engineer

These are just examples that can help get kids excited about engineering.  There are lots of other great videos that could peak her interest if you're willing to do a little exploring!

Research shows that up until middle school girls are interested in math and science equal or even at a level that surpass boys. Its crucial that we show our girls at this critical time that engineering is fun, team-oriented, cool and most of all can make a huge difference in our world.  Hopefully these few simple steps will help you "introduce a girl to engineering" today.

Michele Grab is Director of the Advancing Women in Engineering Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  Questions for Michele?  email awe@seas.upenn.edu

Started in 2001 as a joint effort between NSPE, IBM, and National Engineers Week Foundation, "Girl Day" 2013 marks the 12th year of a special focus whereby women engineers, and their male colleagues, have the opportunity to introduce more than one million girls and young women to engineering. More than just one day, Introduce a Girl to Engineering is a national movement that shows girls how creative and collaborative engineering is and how engineers are changing our world. - See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/partners-and-state-societies/national-engineers-week#sthash.AB3QN6ce.dpuf
Started in 2001 as a joint effort between NSPE, IBM, and National Engineers Week Foundation, "Girl Day" 2013 marks the 12th year of a special focus whereby women engineers, and their male colleagues, have the opportunity to introduce more than one million girls and young women to engineering. More than just one day, Introduce a Girl to Engineering is a national movement that shows girls how creative and collaborative engineering is and how engineers are changing our world. - See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/partners-and-state-societies/national-engineers-week#sthash.AB3QN6ce.dpuf
Started in 2001 as a joint effort between NSPE, IBM, and National Engineers Week Foundation, "Girl Day" 2013 marks the 12th year of a special focus whereby women engineers, and their male colleagues, have the opportunity to introduce more than one million girls and young women to engineering. More than just one day, Introduce a Girl to Engineering is a national movement that shows girls how creative and collaborative engineering is and how engineers are changing our world. - See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/partners-and-state-societies/national-engineers-week#sthash.AB3QN6ce.dpuf

2 comments:

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  2. Engineering stuff and techniques that you mentioned on your blog are awesome. Being a electrical Engineer I really enjoy your all posts and learn a lot not only Electrical engineering knowledge but others technologies and tools as well.
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