LA PLATA, Md. (Aug. 28, 2016)—What can be done to get more young women to consider careers in the engineering field? Shadei Jones has come up with one idea. For starters, she believes there needs to be more programs available to middle and high school students to make them aware of and familiarize them with the occupations that are available in the field.
Jones, the College of Southern Maryland's pre-engineering coordinator, for a second year brought together some very bright and motivated young women to introduce them to a wide range of engineering disciplines. "Engineer Like a Girl," a week-long day camp at CSM's Leonardtown Campus, aimed to show the girls who attended the types of jobs what engineers do and to observe some engineers at work. The camp's activities also were designed to stomp out negative stereotypes commonly associated with women's aptitude to pursue careers in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
"Women have the talent and the ability. It's time to send a message that science and math aren't just for boys," Jones said.
One of the girls attending the camp agreed.
"It is important for our society to have women engineers because this field is currently lacking women's intelligence, creativity and values in solving today's problems," said Elizabeth Trossbach, who is entering the ninth grade at St. Mary's Ryken High School. "By encouraging more women toward engineering careers, our country will become much stronger by doubling the number of technical people working to make a better world."
Women make up close to 20 percent of the engineers nationwide. According to the National Science Foundation, only 7.9 percent of mechanical engineers are women and 10.7 percent of electrical or computer hardware engineers are women.
"Those low statistics are exactly why we have this program and why our program is so important," said Jones, who has a degree in manufacturing engineering. "There is a shortage of female engineers so hopefully this will help get some exposure to young ladies so they will consider engineering as a career choice."
The nine girls who attended this year's camp participated in workshops and hands-on activities such as making a robotic arm and building a cellphone detector. Each camper also kept a journal and shared their thoughts at the end of each day's activities. The camp attendees heard from civil engineer Jacqueline Bowman; Jehnae Linkins, a biomedical engineering doctorate candidate at the University of Delaware; motivational speaker Antoinette Jackson of Heart of Appreciation; and Patuxent River Naval Air Station engineer Bobbie Diedrich.
Jehnell Linkins, a CSM career and academic adviser, talked about planning for college and engineering careers and majors.
Dr. David John Barrett, director of engineering education and research partnerships at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), talked to the girls about the Southern Maryland Pathways Program in Engineering, a partnership between CSM, the University of Maryland (UMD) A. James Clark School of Engineering, the U.S. Navy and the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. Upon completing the engineering curriculum at CSM, students may transfer with junior status to earn a mechanical engineering degree at UMD. Students also have the opportunity to do an internship with NAWCAD, a division of the Naval Air Systems Command at Pax River, with a possible employment opportunity after they successfully graduate and complete all of the Pathway program requirements.
A day-long visit to Pax River NAS was included in the camp's program. Jones said the field trip to the naval base was one of the highlights of the camp because the girls got to observe the engineers at work. "They got to do some hands-on projects and see some really cool things," she said.
But best of all, they saw Diedrich, a former CSM student who had gone through the Pathways program, conduct a demonstration in one of the engineering labs on base, Jones said.
"The camp is so rewarding, especially seeing the girls get interested and excited about the projects, to see the 'light go on,'" Jones said. "They enjoy being around other girls who are interested in the same things they are. Sometimes in school they might be one of two or three girls in their classes or Advanced Placement courses. I like giving these young ladies the opportunity to do something during the summer with other students who are like them."
Jamie DeWaters will be a junior at Patuxent High School. She said the reason she attended the engineering camp was because she wanted to be around people her age who share her love for math and engineering.
"I also think the camp will expand my knowledge of various STEM careers and help me figure out what I want to do. ... Math is just fun to me. It's something I enjoy, and I'm pretty good at it, too," DeWaters said.
The camp allows the girls to experience what they like to do. "They are good at math, or they're good at building, or they like working with computers. It's engineering, it's not a dirty word," Jones said. "It's really about the exposure they get to what the engineering field is all about."
Ma'Lani Wilson, who will be a senior at Thomas Stone High School, said she wanted to attend the camp because she enjoys math and science. She said she has been thinking about majoring in computer science for a while.
"And then I have been hearing a lot about engineering. I think it's a field that I would enjoy and want to learn more about it," Wilson said. "There are a number of reasons why it's important to have women engineers. One reason is women's thoughts are needed to be included in decision making and not just men. Another reason is that it seems that men are the majority in this field, and women need to join to make a difference."
The camp, which the students attend at no charge, is sponsored by the CSM Foundation and Southern Maryland Chain Chapter, The Links, Inc. To view photographs from the camp, visit csmphoto.zenfolio.com/16engineergirls.
To learn more about the Southern Maryland Pathways Program in Engineering, visit stem.csmd.edu/events_internship.html. For more information regarding admission or transfer in the Pathways program, contact Jones at 301-934-7747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.