Parent Daughter Engineering Day

In a field dominated by men, engineering can seem like an intimidating career path for women, but a few professionals want to encourage an interest in the subject as early as possible.

The Parent-Daughter Engineering Day was held Saturday morning, November 23, at Weber State University's Shepherd Union. 

Professional women in engineering along with volunteers conducted several activities and presentations for junior high school girls and their parents to foster an interest in math and science at a time when children begin thinking about their futures.

"This is a critical time to inspire and teach these girls," Marilyn Marshall, outreach chair for the Society of Women Engineers, said.

The girls began the day designing a solution to a puzzle, the objective to make a balanced structure out of popsicle sticks, plastic cups and other materials.

The instructions were purposely vague to allow the girls to be creative and exercise their problem-solving skills.

"It was so cool to see her come up with the solution herself," said Mark Stevens, who was accompanying his daughter to the event.

Stevens said his daughter was already interested in a career in engineering, but events like this help give girls a concrete idea of what they can do.

Rainie Ingram, the event's organizer, pointed out several different jobs that girls could be interested in such has chemical engineering to design a better sunblock or bioengineering to help girls go into working with ocean life. 

"Girls are very altruistic -- they want to change the world, they want to make a difference," Ingram said.

Rebecca Stromberg is a senior at Layton High School and has participated in the program twice and this year signed up as a volunteer.

"Girls bring a different perspective to the field," Stromberg said. "Diversity is important because it allows engineers to design products for different lifestyles and different personalities."

Stromberg said she became set on a career in biomedical engineering after attending the event.

Marshall said the number of women in engineering has been declining and participation in the field in general has gone down.

"Women were never encouraged to study engineering, but it's been changing over the last few years," Nadine Whitfield, president of the Society of Women Engineers' local branch, said.

Whitfield also suggested that such a choice can be intimidating since it can be a challenging field in which to get a degree.

Parents also received a lesson in how to encourage and support their kids' interest in engineering. They got tips such as letting them take apart machines and helping to fix them. Something as simple as letting them watch dad fix the family car is encouraged as an activity not just for the boys.

Stromberg said a career in engineering can be intimidating for girls, especially if they're in a career surrounded by men, but if they keep at it, they can make a difference.

Originally written by Andreas Rivera of Standard Examiner