AUSTIN, Texas — This summer, 80 middle school girls and teachers will solve an engineering problem at The University of Texas at Austin. Although their solution will only take model form, in the process, these creative students and their teachers will learn that girls have futures as engineers.
Targeting girls all over Texas, UT Austin’s Careers in Engineering for Women (CEW) program has selected 16 teams of four girls and one teacher to participate in one of two one-week sessions to be held at the UT Austin campus during June. The 16 teams, selected from more than 50 team applications submitted, are from: Austin, Dallas (2), Denton, El Paso, Grand Prairie, Houston, McAllen, Pasadena, Progresso, San Benito, Silsbee, Smithville, Talco and Tomball (2).
The overall goals of CEW encourage girls to develop an interest in mathematics and science, and introduce them to engineering career options.
The first of the two CEW sessions began Sunday (June 7) and ends Saturday (June 13). The second session runs June 14-20. CEW is administered by the Women in Engineering Program at UT Austin and is funded by 3M, AMD, Dow Chemical, Exxon, IBM, International Paper, Motorola, Procter and Gamble, the RGK Foundation and Texas Instruments.
“Although women make up about half of the overall population, less than 10 percent of employed engineers and 20 percent of UT undergraduate engineering students are women,” said Dr. Sherry Woods, director of UT Austin’s Women in Engineering Program.
“We’re excited about giving girls an opportunity to change those statistics. By trying on their hats as engineers during CEW, these girls learn more than just problem-solving skills. They learn that they can be successful, and they gain a world of confidence in themselves and their abilities,” Woods said.
Teachers play a critical role in motivating young people to pursue particular career paths. “We believe it is imperative to involve teachers in CEW so that the participants have a school-based network to nurture their budding interest in engineering when they return to their schools in the fall,” Woods said.
CEW participants will have several opportunities to meet outstanding female engineering role models. Sixteen local engineers have volunteered to be advising engineers and spend 90 minutes a day to work with a team of girls on their design challenge. In addition, each team is assigned a CEW e-mail mentor and will maintain daily contact with an engineer at one of the sponsoring corporations.
“Our underlying goal is to make sure that by the end of CEW, these girls have no question about whether or not women can be successful engineers,” said Woods.