AUSTIN, Texas—Middle school students from across the state are working to solve an engineering problem at The University of Texas at Austin during a special summer program for young women. Careers in Engineering for Women (CEW) is a program coordinated by the Women in Engineering Program office at UT Austin.
Eighty students, selected from more than 450 applicants, are participating. The purpose is to motivate young women to pursue careers in engineering and develop teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills. The program also demonstrates the range of opportunities engineering degrees can offer to women. The program if offered June 10-16 and June 17-23.
"Although women make up about half of the overall population, less than 10 percent of employed engineers and 22 percent of UT Austin undergraduate engineering students are women," said Tricia Berry, director of the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) at UT Austin. "Research indicates girls historically have been directed away from advanced math and science classes, which provide the academic preparation crucial to a successful engineering career. One of our goals is to counteract that trend so girls can maintain their confidence and be successful."
The students will be challenged to design a prototype feline distraction device. The goal is to invent a machine that can be used to soothe hyperactive cats by providing them with entertainment they can view through the window. Student teams will be asked to produce a relatively complex, Rube Goldberg-like mechanism featuring various moving parts on a two-by-four foot base that can be placed outside.
This year’s program is being directed by Lisa Kurzejeski, an IBM manager on loan to UT Austin.
The IBM Faculty Loan Program provides temporary faculty and other professional support to colleges, universities and related educational institutions in science, engineering, mathematics or business administration. Specific focus is placed on programs that include underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities, women and the disadvantaged. The goal of the IBM Faculty Loan Program is to assist in improving the quality of education by granting qualified IBM staff temporary assignments to teach, counsel or provide professional support.
More than 50 women from private industry are volunteering as CEW advising engineers, e-mail mentors, workshop leaders and design judges. Kurzejeski said "by meeting and interacting with ‘real, live engineers,’ the CEW participants learn firsthand that they, too, can someday be engineers."
CEW is funded by 3M, AMD, Applied Materials, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Motorola, Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Schlumberger, SENSR Fund, Siemens and Texaco. IBM has provided nine laptop computers for the CEW participants to use during each session.
"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 Kurzejeski.
For more information, contact the Women in Engineering Program at (512) 471-5650.