Engineering Is for Women

The Mathematics, Science, Engineering Achievement (MESA) program has secured funding from the Engineering Information Foundation to create a pilot program providing specialized, year-long outreach to middle school girls who are first-generation college-bound and/or low-income. MESA developed this project model with UCSB’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) and the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and is partnering with the UCSB Los Ingenieros student chapter. Engineering is for Women builds on the successes and strategies of the MESA program by integrating three daylong interactive events with an ongoing mentoring program that provides the middle school girls with near-peer role models (Las Ingenieras female undergraduates) and supportive advocates (including males). A unique aspect of this program will be to include mothers or other important, adult women in the girls’ lives (e.g. an aunt, grandmother or older sister). This will promote sustaining maternal support and awareness, as well as multi-generational bonding experiences to promote positive educational outcomes. The program goals are to

  • inspire participants to aspire to engineering careers,
  • counter negative stereotypes that inhibit girls from pursuing engineering careers,
  • promote a “growth mindset” that will help participants to succeed academically and persevere on an engineering career path, and
  • increase family support that will provide help and encouragement throughout their schooling and college preparation into careers.

The program sessions include “Explore Engineering” and “Engineering is for Women.” During these special events at UCSB, the young women (and their female family members) will explore engineering concepts and engage in the Engineering Design Process through project-based and action-oriented activities. They will do research and create their own engineering designs, tour UCSB labs and projects, learn first-hand about college campus life and resources, interact with their mentors, work in teams with other middle school girls, and practice leadership skills in promoting engineering for women.

Girls and their mothers will be special guests at UCSB’s Science and Technology MESA Day on March 7th, which is also International Women’s Day. The Las Ingenieras Mentors will lead the middle-school girls through engaging activities, workshops that introduce the excitement of engineering, and MESA competition demonstrations at UCSB. A key highlight will be interacting with engineering and other STEM college students, including many women. There will be special panels and workshops hosted by UCSB students and young STEM alumni, plus experienced professionals.

Each of the events will lead students through explorations of different fields, skills, and contributions of engineering to build interest and excitement, address stereotypes, promote “growth mindsets,” and provide personalized guidance on how to prepare for and pursue an engineering degree and career. Along with STEM activities involving the middle-school girls and family member, and their UCSB mentors and college campus opportunities, the girls and their mothers will have the opportunity to attend special panels hosted by UCSB students and young STEM alumni and professionals. Campus events will culminate with “I will be an Engineer,” bringing together girls, mothers, and mentors, this time to give them a more in-depth look at the engineering world beyond college and help them formulate an early course of action to achieve their goals. Women in industry and women engineering faculty and graduate researchers will help the girls link academics with their career dreams.