10 More Minutes, Please?

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Not even a rainy Saturday morning could keep 60 local San Diego 4th-8th graders and their parents from attending San Diego State University’s College of Engineering FemineerⓇ Program’s 1st annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 22, 2020. The SDSU FemineerⓇ team was intentional on including this event as part of the National Engineers Week (E-Week). Attendees arrived early and their excitement for the day could be felt by the staff and engineering Student Leaders. To kick off the event, the Girls Have No Limits video was viewed, and Michelle Bunn, Director of SDSU’s Women in Engineering and College of Engineering FemineerⓇ Program, led a brief discussion of the attendees’ impression of the video and the message conveyed in what Ewy Rosqvist talked about. However, seeing the young girls’ and their parents’ faces light up when Ewy mentioned she overcame people’s doubt of her abilities and won the Grand Prix by 3 hours and also when the words “Girls Have No Limits” came up on the screen.

Group of girls watching a video on a large screen. The screen says, "Reminding women they have no limits"

We split up the students and parents so they could attend their specific workshops for the day. Students were broken up into 3 groups to rotate through 1) designing and building their own pinewood derby car, 2) creating and testing their own VEX IQ car with a safety device to keep their (uncooked) egg safe during a collision test, and 3) designing and engineering a car track to commemorate Ewy Rosqvist’s Grand Prix win.

During those 3 rotations, the girls had the opportunity to interact with our College of Engineering Student Leaders who led the activities. We were intentional with having a diverse representation of engineering students and to emphasize that both male and female students can be supportive advocates for them. This gave the girls the opportunity to learn more about the various engineering programs and student organizations at SDSU, but more importantly have the opportunity to see and talk with engineering role models. During the pinewood derby activity, we ensured the girls would have the opportunity to use a power drill with the assistance of a female engineering student, with the hope of enforcing the idea that girls use power tools regularly.

One of the most notable aspects of the event was the sheer excitement the young girls exuded as they went through the rotations. The Student Leaders expressed how the students would rush them over to their project as they overcame obstacles, excited to show their accomplishments. In between projects, parents would peek into the activity room to take photos of their daughters and were met with very concentrated students who did not want any distractions from sanding or constructing their projects. The genuine passion and excitement that radiated from each of the young girls was truly contagious and inspiring. Throughout the event, students would say, “We need more time!” Or ask for 5 or 10 more minutes. Even after the event ended, students and parents stayed behind wanting more time to do activities and talk about more STEM opportunities to get involved in.

Girl using orange power drill

In order to strengthen students’ success in pursuing STEM majors and careers, studies have shown that involving parents as additional support to students have proven positive results (Svoboda, Rozek, Hyde, Harackiewicz, Destin, 2016). While the students participated in the hands-on activities, parents had a discussion about being more mindful of the unconscious bias and how that can affect their daughters’ interest in STEM. Recommendations on how to support their daughters regardless if they possess a STEM background or not, which included finding more extracurricular STEM opportunities for them to participate in throughout the year. In addition to learning more about the FemineerⓇ Program, parents learned more about the VEX IQ Girl Powered workshops, San Diego Festival of Science Engineering, San Diego STEM Ecosystem, San Diego Fleet Science Center’s BeWISE (Better Education for Women in Science & Engineering) program, SDG&E Be That Girl initiative, Reinvented Magazine, Barnes & Noble’s Story Design, The Connectory (online STEM directory), FabFems (STEM Role Model directory), Mission Unstoppable tv series, to name a few.

Group holding certificates in front of a banner than says Femineer San Diego State University

To also serve some of our local FemineerⓇ schools, we hosted 2 mini Girls Have No Limits workshops on February 4th at Tierra Del Sol Middle School for 50 girls and on February 24th for 20 girls at STEAM Academy @ La Presa. We started off the workshop showing them the Girls Have No Limits video, and similar to our Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, we witnessed smiles and head nods when Ewy Rosqvist says, “They said I couldn’t finish, so I finished first.” and when the words Girls Have No Limits were on the screen. We led a short discussion of how they felt about what toys and STEM opportunities that are currently available. When we shared with them that they were going to participate in designing and engineering a car track to commemorate Ewy Rosqvist’s Grand Prix win, their eyes lit up. Additionally, the students cheered and clapped when we mentioned that they would be able to keep their Ewy Rosqvist commemorative Mercedes Benz Mattel car so they can continue to innovate and create car tracks at home and share their experience with their siblings.

Three girls looking at the a matchbox car going down a looped track

A consistent observation our FemineerⓇ team made was how all the students we interacted during this initiative begged for more time to complete their activities. There were constant sighs of disappointment when we had to end the activity or workshops, which we believe is a clear sign that these students, regardless of age, are in need of more creative and supportive learning spaces that allow their imagination and innovation to come alive.

SDSU’s College of Engineering FemineerⓇ Program is grateful to partner and collaborate with National Girls Collaborative Project, Mattel, and Mercedes Benz USA on the Girls Have No Limits initiative. We are also grateful for the annual support from Qualcomm and SDG&E (Be That Girl initiative) that allows us to offer several girls STEM outreach events throughout the year.

Michelle Bunn

Michelle Bunn

Michelle Bunn, M.A. is the Director of SDSU’s Women in Engineering and College of Engineering Femineer® Program, an Adjunct Professor, serves on her college’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion committee, is a member of the Women in STEM San Diego STEM Ecosystem, and a proud mom of her 2 boys.

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