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Left, Sarai Utley, an aviation senior, speaks with a Girls’ Make-a-thon attendee about engineering, October 1, at the Polytechnic Campus.
Approximately 75 young women turned out to explore careers in engineering at the second annual Girls’ Make-a-thon at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus on October 1, 2016.
Hosted and organized by the ASU Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, the event provided girls from eighth to twelfth grade a look at the world of engineering.
“I had a lot of strong women mentors in engineering all my life, and I think it’s important for girls coming up now to have the same,” says Kat Screws, SWE’s outreach coordinator.
The event kicked off with a welcome from Barbara Brockett, Vice President of Engineering Test Services at Honeywell Aerospace. Following that, the attendees moved over to a “reverse career fair,” where they spoke with students and faculty from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering as well as industry representatives to learn about the different pathways and opportunities open to them in engineering.
Pierina Ortiz, an informatics analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, said the option to speak with girls appealed to her because she never had such an opportunity in high school. An alumna of ASU, she holds both a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and a master’s degree in biomedical informatics.
“I found what I was good at and interested in through things like math camp,” Ortiz says. “But I wish I had someone available to tell me about the potential in engineering when I was their age,” she added.
Sarai Utley, an aviation senior who volunteered for the event, echoed this sentiment.
“I just want to be available for outreach like this,” said Utley, who is also the president of the Women in Aviation Club. “Something like 95 percent of commercial airline pilots are men — so this might be a career path that doesn’t even occur to some girls. I want them to know it’s an option, to think, ‘Yeah, I could do this.’”
There were also faculty in attendance from a number of engineering programs from each of the six Fulton Schools.
Haolin Zhu, a lecturer with the freshman engineering education team, spoke with the attendees about how she got into engineering, the challenges and opportunities within the different disciplines and her background in mechanical engineering.
“I really want to inspire future students and show them all the different aspects of engineering,” she noted.
Kayla Madore, a homeschooled tenth-grader, said her favorite part of the event was talking to the female students, faculty and industry representatives. Something she heard from Mariana Bertoni, associate professor of electrical engineering, particularly resonated with her.
“She said she’d much rather take someone who’s motivated and gets things done over a straight-A student. Grades are important, but it’s nice to hear they’re not everything — that even if you’re not the best student, there can still be a place for you in engineering.”
After learning about the different avenues and applications of engineering, the girls engaged in an engineering design challenge. The task laid before them was to devise a way to rescue a stuffed animal from a bucket and raise it a meter out of the bucket. Given straws, glue, rubber bands, paper plates, tape and other household items, the girls were broken up into teams and challenged to build an apparatus that could rescue the puppy. Many of the teams employed a scoop- or basket-like device to secure their charge, but others created claws and other inventive methods of rescue.
Maya Kostov, an eighth grader at Tempe Preparatory Academy, most enjoyed the engineering design challenge.
“I love to design and build things, so this really fun for me,” says Kostov, whose father is a computer engineer at Intel.