Over 200 girls from high schools around the country participated in a day of math and science workshops at Harvey Mudd College’s annual Women Engineers and Scientists of Tomorrow (WEST) conference March 4. The college’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) hosted the event.
“We wanted to expose young female students to the possibilities of engineering… to show them that this is something that they can really do,” SWE co-president Christine Rhee HM ‘13 said.
The participants got a chance to experience the daily life of an engineering student through workshops, conversations with admissions officers, student panels and a speech by a guest lecturer. Workshops were hosted by professors and included activities such as robot building and observing sunspots through the college’s telescopes.
“My favorite part of the conference was the workshops because we got to actually see what it’s like to be an engineer and apply the equations from the books,” said Jisu Lee, a junior at Wendell High School in Seattle. “It was really cool.”
During the conference students also got the chance to meet peers with similar interests and collaborate on projects.
“These high school students are very excited and engaged in the workshop. They not only enjoyed the technical challenge, but also enjoyed working together in the team setting with some new strangers,” Harvey Mudd Engineering Professor Qimin Yang wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “They always go beyond what I asked them to explore, and that’s very satisfying for me.”
The participants were welcomed by a video recorded by Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe, who could not be in attendance due to a business trip.
Other notables such as Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Cal State Fresno J.S. Shelley also spoke. She delivered the keynote speech at Galileo Hall about her experience as a female engineer. Shelley emphasized that contemporary female engineers are well-rounded and have lives outside of their research and teaching jobs.
“Female engineers make up only ten percent of the field, a dismal statistic that we should all strive to change,” Shelley said.
This year the SWE delegated more tasks to members instead of “micromanaging from the top down,” Rhee said. About 25 active members were involved in planning the conference this year, she said. Workshop times were also extended because of feedback from past years.
“At Mudd we have a lot of responsibilities and classes so a lot of time management was involved,” SWE Co-President Maria Cuenca HM ’13 said. “We have a lot of great freshman and sophomore members who were really enthusiastic about what we do.”
The Harvey Mudd admissions team selected qualified participants for the conference from data provided by the College Board, Cuenca said. High school counselors and teachers were also invited to nominate prospective participants who showed a strong interest in math and science. There were participants from each high school grade.
“This event has been around here ever since we’ve been here and we hope that it will continue in the years to come,” Cuenca said.