SWE Hosts Girls Night Out to Teach Young Girls about Engineering

The event was designed to give middle school girls a glimpse of what the world of engineering, including computer science, is all about.

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The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), a CSE sponsored organization and the largest student organization in the College of Engineering, hosted Girls Night Out on November 8th. The event was organized by Katherine Chen, a sophomore in Industrial & Operations Engineering and the Middle School Outreach Officer for SWE.

Girls Night Out was a small engineering outreach event geared towards middle school girls. Its purpose was to give girls a better idea of the “design-test-build” thinking and problem solving of engineering, while also showcasing the different types of engineering and how engineering affects nearly every aspect of society. The event had a general theme that engineering was something attainable and it stressed the fact that engineering was not just sitting at a computer crunching numbers, but that the goal is to change the world for the better.

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During the event the girls took part in two 45-minute engineering activities.

The first activity was to introduce the girls to computer science engineering. Girls were taught the concept of the algorithm through an interactive game, where some girls were the “robots” and the rest of them had to “program” them to create certain structures with plastic cups. Then, they were guided through an example on a code learning website called Scratch. The website features sprites that act based on drag and drop code that the user puts together. The girls coded the sprite to do the Cha Cha Slide, which was a great way for them to realize the concept of algorithms and also have fun getting up and dancing.

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The second activity taught them more about the engineering design process. Their goal was to build a simple mechanism to move a marble across a distance of table.

While the kids were working on their engineering activities, parents were able to take part in speaker presentations from Professor Joanna Millunchick and Dr. Line Van Nieuwstadt. The parents were given valuable information and resources about how to encourage and support their daughters in high school for a potential major and career in engineering.

The girls and their parents also had the opportunity to talk to different engineering undergraduate volunteers. This allowed one-on-one interaction with engineering students, which provided inspiration and useful information about college and the variety of engineering majors.

The night concluded with an all-female panel that included undergraduate engineers, a graduate student, and a professional engineer. The purpose of having a panel spanning several stages of career development was to showcase the many options in engineering that were available, and to show them what the future holds.

Diversity and Outreach; Division News