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Weekend program draws engineering-minded girls to campus

By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer

 A volunteer engineering student shares her knowledge with a program participant. 

A sold-out event aimed at introducing junior high and high school aged girls to the world of engineering drew an enthusiastic crowd to campus over the weekend.

Go Eng Girl! is a province-wide initiative that provides girls with opportunities to try hands-on activities while learning about engineering from female professionals, academics and students in the field. Sixty girls in grades 7 through 10 visited Queen’s on Saturday with their parents for the annual event, an initiative of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers that has been running for more than five years.

Over the course of the day, the young participants enjoyed a session learning how to make speakers from different materials, including paper plates. They also engaged in activities that encouraged them to use engineering thinking skills to solve “real-world” problems. Meanwhile, their parents heard presentations from Lynann Clapham, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and from alumni Jessie Liu, Cecelia Low and Rebecca Ploeger on the path to a career in engineering. After lunch, alumna Katherine Crewe, a biomedical engineer, gave a keynote address to both groups.

 Program participants learned to make speakers from paper plates. 

While Queen’s leads the pack among Canadian engineering schools when it comes to female enrollment (28% of the 2013 incoming class are female), the national average slides between 17 and 19%.

“One reason that many women don’t choose engineering as a career is because they don’t see it as a caring profession,” says Maria Lahiffe, Outreach Coordinator with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “But engineers do a great deal for the good of humanity, and that’s something that we want these girls to see.”

Ms. Lahiffe says the program gets parents involved so they can help their daughters map out potential career paths. “We talk to the parents about how rewarding an engineer’s life is, in the hopes that it will give parents the impetus to support their girls.”

She also says encouraging more women to pursue engineering has one clear and simple benefit: it increases diversity. “And there is so much evidence to suggest that increasing diversity improves the field overall”.

For information about the Go Eng Girl! program, visit the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ website.