4 Ways to Introduce Girls to Engineering


February 11, 2014

Here at AAUW, we have a lot vested in the future of girls in STEM-related fields. After all, our own study  has proven that it is important — both for girls and for the future of engineering — that the engineering workforce be more diverse and inclusive of women. But what can you, as a parent or sister or scout leader or whatever, do to introduce the girl in your life to engineering? We have some ideas.


Grace Hopper (center) with the early computer model UNIVACWhen little girls envision their futures, they often use women they admire as a sort of template to plan their own dreams. If the girl in your life doesn’t know any famous female computer engineers, chances are she’s not going dream of being the next Grace Murray Hopper. So do what you can to introduce her to women whose legacies are just as important as those of George Washington Carver or Neil Armstrong, whom we all know and love.

This can be as simple as watching TV shows with strong STEM women or bringing up famous women in everyday conversation. It may feel a little strange to point out that a female engineer named Margaret Knight invented the paper bags used in grocery stores, but hey, kids are curious and facts like that are bound to leave a mark.


Girl holding an electric drillFrom Super Bowl ads to remarks by lawmakers, the extremely gendered nature of contemporary girls’ toys has been in the news a lot.
According to STEM advocates, toys may be something worth worrying about. While it’s fine for the girl in your life to love her dolls, make sure that she has access to STEM-related toys that will both nurture her critical-thinking skills and inspire her imagination.

Since many of these engineering-related toys are oriented around problem solving, they can also make great projects for you and your future engineer to do together. Don’t be embarrassed if you aren’t the world’s best engineer. Seeing you bungle your way through building your own contraption may well inspire her when she’s facing her own frustrations later in life(you know, when she’s just hours away from landing in the history books and wants to quit).


Two girls in lab goggles carefully hold a test tube with a white material inside.

You may not know it yet, but you’re probably a huge role model for the girl in your life. Being a role model is amazing, but it can be a little stressful, too.

Studies show that girls begin to lose interest in science and math very early in their scholastic careers, and in many cases, their perception that math and science are harder than other subjects may be to blame. Try not to reinforce this stereotype with your own language. If she is having a hard time with her algebra homework, don’t reinforce her discouragement by mentioning that math was once the bane of your existence. Instead help her frame her struggle as a puzzle to be solved instead of something insurmountable and boring.

Kids look to their role models for cues about how to feel about almost everything, so it’s better to face your own fear of long division instead of discouraging the girl in your life away from engineering-related fields forever.


Four girls stand together holding engineered car models.

Image by Todd Kulesza

When I was a kid in school, there weren’t a whole lot of academic clubs that related to science and engineering. I was a member of the quiz bowl team and school newspaper, but that was just about it unless you count the short-lived Spice Girls fan club I founded. Thankfully, things have changed. Many schools and community groups now sponsorrobotics leagues and even host hack-a-thons. Additionally, the Girl Scouts incorporate STEM-oriented activities as a major part of their overall programming, and there are conferences like AAUW’s Tech Savvy that are designed to attract and interest young girls.

To find out if a group exists in your community, start with your local science teachers. Even if there are no local clubs, your interest may be able to help spark something that would benefit girls throughout your community. In addition to local events, look into introducing girls to aspects of the national STEM movement such as Hour of Code.

Getting the girl in your life involved with other future women engineers doesn’t have to be limited to the school year either. The number of engineering-related summer camps is growing each year, including programs such as AAUW’s own Tech Trek. Do your research. She’ll thank you later when she realizes that she isn’t the only girl who is just a little obsessed with circuit boards.


Introducing the girl in your life to engineering is probably looking pretty hands-on, but we promise you, it’s worth it. Every hour you invest in the girl in your life will not only help improve her chance of success but also make her a more well-rounded, engaged citizen, whether she pursues a STEM-related field or not.

Engineering is all about creating something new and when you see the girl in your life flush with excitement over her first “invention,” you’ll know that it’s about creating something beautiful too.

So what do you do to introduce the girl in your life to engineering? Help our readers get some more ideas by commenting below.

This post was written by AAUW Social Media intern Brittany Edwardes.


3-D Printing Initiative in U.S. School Attracts International Visitors

Here’s an article on how middle school students in Virginia are using 3D printers.  Sacred Heart Greenwich students have designed and Printed many items via online CAD programs and our 3D printer.  Our faculty has also learned a great deal about the technology and we look forward to including more design and engineering work, via the 3D printer as we increase our Science Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM, offerings next year.

Stephanie Thrift, 14, attaches a wire coil onto the base of a stereo speaker that she and fellow students made using 3-D printing technologies at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Va. An initiative there teaches advanced manufacturing skills.
—Norm Shafer for Education Week

Initiative emphasizes science, engineering

By Bryan McKenzie, The Daily Progress (MCT)
Charlottesville, Va.

With a Japanese television news crew keeping close watch on a recent school day, Buford Middle School science students crafted their own sound speakers from plastic and paper. They did it using three-dimensional printers and computer-design software to produce plastic supports, paper cones, and other pieces.

“I think it’s interesting that they’re including 3-D computerization and printing into the education program at this level and what it means for the future of job training in the U.S.,” said Takashi Yanagisawa, a correspondent with Japan’s Nippon Television. “This is what President Obama talked of in his State of the Union address, about bringing technology into schools for job training.”

Mr. Yanagisawa and his colleagues are producing a segment for Japanese TV that will feature the class at the Virginia school as an example of efforts in the United States to bring more technology into schools.

“We’re in on the ground floor of bringing manufacturing and technology into the classrooms,” said James M. Henderson, the assistant superintendent for administration services for the 3,900-student Charlottesville city school system. “We’re participating with Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia, and we hope to make this a 7th-through-12th-grade program. This is the start.”

The start is the result of a $300,000 state grant to create a “laboratory school for advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Carter Gillaspie, 14, examines a paper cone to be used in a stereo speaker that his group designed and built using 3-D printing technologies at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Va.
—Norm Shafer for Education Week

The school is a collaboration between the University of Virginia and its home city to teach science and engineering in public schools and prepare students for high-tech jobs. It also provides future teachers experience combining engineering concepts and traditional science education.

University officials hope the concept is eventually picked up by schools across the country.

Costs Drop

Eventually, advanced manufacturing-technology programs will be added at Jack Jouett Middle School in neighboring Albemarle County and in Charlottesville and Albemarle County high schools. The sites each will be linked to one another and the University of Virginia via videoconferencing.

Next school year, the lab school plans to offer courses to 500 or so 8th graders at the two middle schools. Each school year, a new grade level is scheduled to be added. High school students eventually would get the chance to study advanced manufacturing through double-enrollment with Piedmont Virginia Community College.

The price of 3-D printers has dropped sharply over the past two years, with machines that once cost $20,000 now at $1,000 or cheaper, educators said. Although they don’t expect printers to replace current factories, the engineering and technology behind the software and the devices will change how goods are made in the near future.

School officials say the classes will give students a boost in technological and manufacturing training and, therefore, a leg up in the job market upon graduation.

“We are committed to educating our young people and making sure their education is not just enough to pass tests but equip them with skills that will help them after graduation in the job market and help them contribute to the economy,” said Rosa S. Atkins, the Charlottesville superintendent.

Students also get hands-on science and mathematic instruction. Rather than learning math and science as abstract concepts, students can learn about them in action.

“Having a 3-D printer doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the knowledge and ability to design the programs or the product and make it work for you,” said Glen Bull, a professor of instructional technology and co-director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia.

Student-Created Products

At one table on a recent school day, 8th graders Ben Sties, Ben Ralston, and Nick Givens used University of Virginia-created software to design and print in plastic the support structure for a paper cone “woofer,” a speaker that enhances the bass sound in a stereo system.

“We did this first semester, and the first time we did it, we didn’t have all of the equipment,” Mr. Sties said. “We got to do some of it and we understood it, but it didn’t work nearly as well.”

The first-semester speaker didn’t woof, they said. Neither did it tweet. It simply vibrated.

“Making it with the 3-D printer makes a big difference. Now we can make a speaker that really makes sound,” said Mr. Givens.

The 3-D-printing equipment, software, and program guidelines come from the minds of University of Virginia professors in the school of education and the school of engineering and applied science. The goal, Mr. Bull said, is to develop coursework that can be replicated in schools nationwide.

“You have a group of professors and students in the rapid-prototyping lab [at the university] who are working on the curriculum and methodology with the idea of finding out how it can be taught and work well in most classroom environments,” Mr. Bull said.

And the concept might scale up beyond the United States.

“It’s something we probably should consider in our country as well,” said Mr. Yanagisawa, the Japanese correspondent.

Copyright (c) 2013, The Daily Progress, Virginia. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

“Why the nation needs more female engineers”

Posted on 05/03/2012


Why the nation needs more female engineers

Here is a guest post from Stephanie Hill, president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions-Civil division.

Stephanie Hill (Mike Rote/Lockheed Martin Corp.) “Are you sure you want to be a software engineer? You are such a people person. Won’t you be stuck working alone, staring at a computer for hours on end?”

Those were the questions that my sister asked as I declared my intent to pursue a software engineering degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). She was right – I am a people person. In fact, in high school I intended to pursue a career in psychiatry. But a college elective course – in COBOL programming – peaked my interest like nothing before. And with wonderful mentors who provided me a glimpse into various career opportunities, I shifted gears, full speed ahead into the world of engineering. I have not looked back since.

As an African-American, female engineer, I’m certainly in the minority. New statistics released this month by theCongressional Joint Economic Committee note that while women now comprise a growing share of the college-educated workforce, only 14 percent of engineers are women, as are just 27 percent of individuals working in computer science and math positions. There is a similar under-representation of Hispanic and black non-Hispanic workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering math) workforce. Each of these groups accounts for only 6 percent of STEM workers. Overall, the share of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM fields peaked at 24 percent in 1985; by 2009, the share had fallen to 18 percent.

At the same time we are producing fewer engineers, the need for this profession has never been greater. Think of the many challenges facing our nation that engineers – yes, engineers – grapple with every day: from protecting our national security from cybersecurity threats to our energy utilities and financial markets, to finding new energy solutions to decrease our independence on fuel, to supporting the FBI and law enforcement in decreasing terrorist threats with cutting-edge identification tools. With the pending retirement of many of our hardest-working baby boomer engineers, it’s up to the next generation workforce to step up and take on these exciting careers in engineering, and it’s up to the seasoned generation of engineers to drive excitement in this next generation workforce.

The Role of Industry

A recent Washington Post column by Kristin Tichenor of Worcester Polytechnic Institute discussed the many reasons why young women shy away from engineering as a career, including a lack of female engineering role models, having little knowledge of the solution-oriented work of engineers, and misconceptions about engineering being a “solitary” profession.

Many school systems across the nation are doing incredible work exposing students to engineering. For example, in D.C., Cardozo High School’s TransTech Academy now includes a pre-engineering curriculum.

But schools cannot go it alone. Industry must step up its role in attracting young women to this exciting career where they can truly make a difference in people’s daily lives.

Read more

Facebook female engineer writes about the importance of girls studying technology and science

From huffingtonpost.com

Jocelyn Goldfein has a simple reason for wanting to increase the number of female engineers: She’s tired of meetings where she’s surrounded entirely by men.

“Personally, I care that there aren’t more women in tech because I love most aspects of my job, and the one thing I don’t love is often being the only woman in the room,” said Goldfein, director of engineering at Facebook. “I would just enjoy my job more if there were more women.”

Goldfein has not only worked on some of Facebook’s best-known products, such as Questions, Photos, and the revamped News Feed, but she also helps hire people for the social networking site’s expanding army of engineers.

The latter role has illustrated for Goldfein the urgency of encouraging women to specialize in technical fields. She says she can’t find enough engineers to meet her staffing needs, a problem she argues could be remedied if more women pursued computer science degrees.

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/08/jocelyn-goldfein-facebook-engineer_n_1408553.html