SWE Connects High School Girls with Circuits and Careers


October 17, 2003

ECE juniors Lisa Gentry and Yun Zhou organized a Society of Women Engineers (SWE) High School Workshop introducing 250 girls to tech careers. Emily Lauffer, ECE and EPP senior, planned ECEs circuit design lessons, taught by ECE Lecturer Tom Sullivan and assisted by engineering students Anna Ziskind, Nicole Saulnier, and Katie Strausser.

"Engineering is such a broad and exciting field, and our goal for High School Day is to pass that sense of excitement onto high school girls who are potentially entering a technical field, said Zhou. She hoped to motivate the juniors and seniors, who came from high schools within 60 miles of campus, by showing them the creative and dynamic nature of an engineers work.

All of the thirty girls in the lab built their own small flasher circuit using the same type of kit from 18-100, Introduction to ECE. As they sampled the college level exercise, the SWE members showed them how to measure high and low voltage, capacitance, and resistance. Each circuit had a printed circuit board, resistors, adjustable light emitting diodes (LED) lights, a capacitor, invertors, a battery, and wires connecting the components.

Bhavani Ramesh, a junior at Winchester Thurston High School, dove into the activity. I am really interested in engineering because I like math and science, she said.

Renee Leroy from Butler High School also enjoyed the chance to put her technical skills into action. It shows you what it will be like if you go into that field, she discovered, adding that many of her peers dont know the difference between different engineering disciplines.

Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors were invited, too. Attending the program with her mom and aunt, Leroy plans to study electrical and computer engineering. Renees mother, Kim, was happy that her daughter had the chance to sample the vocation before college. Linda Mueller, Renees aunt, knew the activities would be challenging: Its interesting so they can see what they are getting intoits not always as simple as what they think, Mueller established.

Lauffers own experience before college led her to take charge as an ECE student. When she was a participant in the High School Workshop she knew about the variety of types of engineering because her father is an electrical engineer, but like Renee, Lauffer realized that many of her classmates hadnt been acquainted with the occupation.

I wanted to make sure other girls would be exposed to the field and would see it as a possible career path, Lauffer explained. I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, but this program exposed me to the different fields within engineering. It also gave me the chance to see Carnegie Mellon and encouraged me to attend.

Deborah Lange, a Research Engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, delivered the seminars keynote address on the engineering profession. Throughout the day nearly 100 students attended the ECE workshop, while another 100 passed through the clean room tour conducted by Nanofabrication Facility Director Chris Bowman. Each student could attend up to four sessions, with 20 to 30 registered per course. The segments included chemical, mechanical, and materials science engineering, engineering and public policy (EPP), chemistry, and virtual reality activities. Additionally, a panel of Carnegie Mellon students answered questions about college life and engineering.

According to their website, SWE stimulates women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expands the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrates the value of diversity. Other SWE programs include a career guidance workshop for Pittsburgh Public School girls, a technical opportunities conference, and a technical internship expo.

Emily Lauffer, Yun Zhou, and Lisa Gentry (left to right)

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Thomas Sullivan