AUSTIN, Texas—Next week’s summer camp for middle school girls, the Careers in Engineering for Women program at The University of Texas at Austin, is the national winner of the first Building the Future Award, given by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Education Foundation.
The award, which carries a $5,000 honorarium, recognizes “excellence in programs that engage middle school students and/or educators in an effort to increase the number of young people, particularly women and minorities, choosing careers in the fields of manufacturing, engineering, science and technology.” The program was selected from among 27 applicants.
Careers in Engineering for Women is a weeklong summer program for middle school girls started by the College of Engineering’s Women in Engineering Program in 1992. Since then, almost 1,000 girls from across Texas have been introduced to engineering through weeklong design challenges, hands-on activities, tours, presentations and networking with professional female engineers. This year, the program is being organized by the Society of Women Engineers, a registered student organization at The University of Texas at Austin. The group received 330 applications for its 40 slots.
Participants in this summer’s program, slated for June 8-14, will learn about a different engineering major each day and work in five-person teams to complete the design challenge. They must create a device that, for five to seven seconds, will entertain a cat. The contraption must begin with the push of a button and end with a bell ringing. Each team will have a student engineer mentor and an industry mentor to give advice and provide support during the week.
Katie Kizziar, one of the first middle school girl participants, graduated from The University of Texas at Austin this spring with a degree in engineering and serves as this year’s event coordinator. She says her choice to major in environmental engineering can be directly traced to her experience with the program.
“I had no clue what engineering was until I came,” she says.
Kizziar plans to join the Peace Corps and later attend graduate school in engineering. Her goals for the program’s participants aren’t limited to each girl following her footsteps.
“I just want them to at least think, at some time in the week,” she says, “that they can do anything with math and science. I want them to think, ‘I can do that.’”