I went to college in the early 90s. A writer and communicator by nature, I never would have considered entering the Junkins building at SMU, where the School of Engineering was housed. Neither would the majority of my sorority sisters or female friends. I’m scratching my head thinking about it… I can’t remember more than one female in my sorority house who pursued an engineering background.
Yet, day after day, engineering is around us, a part of our lives. In this creative field, often based on science, engineers are problem solvers, helping the community and bettering the lives of others. Perhaps, if girls had discovered these qualities about the “scary and intimidating” term engineering, there would have been far more engineers in my sorority and female engineers in my life.
Engineering as a field of study, and a career
Sure, it’s twentyish years later… it’s nice to see change. It’s great that there are more and more opportunities for women girls to enter the engineering and technology field. There are gender-neutral engineering and tech toys, and uncles and grandparents no longer bat an eye when Susie puts Snap Circuits on her holiday wish list.
Women now make up 37% of last year’s incoming class at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. (In comparison, 45% of the Engineering students at MIT are women, but the nationwide average is only 19%.) Organizations like DiscoverE are helping to continue to raise these numbers. DiscoverE supports a network of thousands of volunteers, helping to meet a vital need: introducing students, parents, and educators to engineering, engaging them in hands-on experiences, and making science and math relevant.
Seeing engineering, tech, science and math all around us
We’re finishing up a week with just 4 hours of school (due to the heavy ice storm that rocked the SouthEastern PA communities.) Today, I have 4 kids here, playing Minecraft on their tablets and iPods. I’m listening to them (3 boys, 1 girl) play and create a community as a team. As my 10-year-old gets sugar and begins “baking a cake,” his female friend is asking for gold to build a protection area. That’s quite a role reversal from my snow days when I was in 4th grade. A few hours before, the kids worked together to create a community out of Blik-Bloks–everyone working together, discussing angles, balance, and support.
Kids are being taught differently these days; we all know that. They’re all expected to create and achieve, whether it’s math, science, or literature. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl; you do your best in every field.
Encouraging STEM in your world
As a parent, I’m always looking for new activities, especially open-ended activities that allow my kids and their friends to think beyond the expected, to solve problems on their own, and to create. DiscoverE offers hands-on activities that give kids an opportunity to work like a chemical engineer or a designer. And they offer parents who don’t know engineering (like me) the resources and vocabulary to learn more and help our kids discover more.
Getting kids involved in problem-based learning (which was my favorite way to teach) is a key to developing interests and talents in Engineering. DiscoverE hosts programs such as Future City and Girls Day to reach the kids and pull them in. They work as a year-round resource offering teachers and parents fun, introductory engineering activities sharing compelling information about engineering careers, field trips, and more.
Looking to the future
It’s funny. Even though engineering is around us, kids don’t naturally say, “I want to be an engineer when I grow up” (unless it’s a train engineer, and usually, that’s a conductor.) I just asked the kids what they want to be when they grow up. (We know this changes every day.)
- Big, boy, age 10: I want to do something in Technology
- Big’s friend, girl, age 9: I want to be a cook. A cook of very good, fancy foods.
- Middle, boy, age 8: A maker. I want to make things.
- Middle’s friend, boy, age 8: I still haven’t decided what I want to be (though his sister commented that he may want to be a race car driver.)
You know what’s cool? That every one of them: the techie, the cook, the maker, and the race car driver (or whatever he decides for today) all include engineering, science, math, and technology. No matter what they choose to “be,” we’re in a place to offer our kids amazing opportunities to think, learn and do.
Learn more and get involved
Learn more about DiscoverE and all it can do to help encourage you and your kids to embrace Engineering. Visit the webpages at DiscoverE and FutureCity, like DiscoverE on Facebook, and learn about the FutureCity Competition, a national, project-based learning experience where students imagine, design, and build cities of the future, on the Future City Facebook page.
Thanks to DiscoverE and National Engineering Week for sponsoring this post and helping me to share this information with interested families and teachers.