University of Utah SWE Day In The Life of a Female Engineer

In late November, SWE hosted our biannual Day In The Life event. Around 15 female high school students arrived at the University at 8 am on a Wednesday. After enjoying a brief breakfast, high school students were either paired with two college SWEesters, or two high schoolers were paired with one college SWEester. This is new to the event, because our university has recently developed requirements for volunteering with minors that prevent any 1:1 ratios. The pairs then attended morning classes, and were provided a list of course options in case the college student didn’t have a full schedule. Volunteers were encouraged to spend one time slot visiting commonly utilized or favorite locations on campus, such as the library or Union cafeteria. Afterwards, the pairs returned for a lunch around 12:30 and a panel with females from industry, so that the girls could learn about furthering their careers in STEM.

The biggest challenge with this event was the inability to have our 1:1 ratio like usual, because not many volunteers have the same classes. We also had about 10 high school students register for the event and then not attend, which complicated the pairing. What was most helpful with this challenge was college volunteers who didn’t have any classes, because they were flexible and awesome enough to simply accompany pairs to classes to ensure the ratio requirement was fulfilled.

University of Utah SWE Girl Scout Night Junior

In early November, SWE hosted our annual Girl Scout Night Junior, where 80 Girl Scouts in grades K-5 come for a Friday night of engineering related activities. Attendees rotated through four different twenty-five minute stations. These included Naturally Selected, where DNA necklaces were created. Paper butterflies were also colored to become camouflaged throughout the room. An epic volunteer even came in at the end of each session (dressed as a bird) to ‘naturally select’ a few butterflies that were first spotted. The Ruby Room was a station where girls were introduced to Rube Goldberg machines, and then given access to all sorts of supplies to construct their own, with the end goal of ringing a call bell. Within the Mad-Circuits room, specially created mad-libs were filled out that posed a problem. Using the fun nouns, adjectives, and verbs that had been picked for the story, the girls then had to brainstorm a solution to the problem. This station also allowed the girls to construct a basic circuit and then hold hands to complete the circuit, lighting up an LED. The last station, Colorful Reuse, taught attendees about pigment extraction from natural sources, and tie-dyed socks. This room also emphasized sustainability by turning plastic grocery bags into envelopes, which were used for thank you notes.

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*Parents are asked to go to the Parent Room for the first 3 sessions, where they learn why SWE is important, do an activity of their own, and engage in a panel with female engineering students. Within the last session, we let them watch their children.

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We did A LOT in each station, and magically, the timing worked out perfect. This was due to our thirty five amazing volunteers. In a survey the girls filled out at the end of the night, more than half of the Girl Scouts answered ‘Everything’ when asked what their favorite part of the event was. The stations were fun and interesting for both volunteers and Girl Scouts alike, and the event was a wonderful, although wild, success.

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How to Make the Best of Your SWE Conference Experience

I’ll be honest right up front, when I first joined SWE, I only did it for the travel opportunities. After putting in the time and work, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend three annual conferences, the most recent to in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and am preparing for the last Region B Conference in Orange County, California. I was even on a conference planning committee once. Now that I can count on two hands the number of conferences I’ve attended in my short five year undergraduate tenure, I’ve learned a lot about what to expect and how to prepare in order to get the most out of a perspective conference. They can seem overwhelming, but can also be underestimated, so I find it’s nice to go in with an action plan. Here are my thoughts on how to make the most out of a not just a SWE conference, but any kind of conference.

Pre-Departure Preparation: You’re going to your first SWE conference! Sweet beans! But, what even happens at these conferences? SWE conferences have a little bit of something for everyone and because it can be a lot to take in (especially at annual conference) just expect to not see everything. There are sessions for students, professionals, industry, the LGBT community, ethnic minorities, and the bigger the conference, the more there is for a more diverse group. Something I’ve found that helps me prepare for a conference is to come up with a couple of “conference goals.” I went to a biomedical engineering conference in Minneapolis last year and I was so overwhelmed with all the sessions, panels, and poster sessions on topics from biomedical devices to regenerative medicine amongst experts in their field and freaky smart people that I spent too much time out in the lobby goofing off on my phone. What I should have done before leaving was coming up with a general idea of what I wanted to learn from this conference. How was I going to be better student/professional/interviewee/person when I got on the flight home?
Example: Let’s say I’m going to a SWE conference as a senior in college and am concerned about being a working mother in industry after graduation. An appropriate conference goal would be to become educated on what’s been done before. In order to accomplish this goal, I look through the conference app and search for industry panels that concentrate on being a working mother or workshops by industry leaders that tell their story as a female professional engineer. Another concern I have is I found it incredibly annoying when my professor embarrassed me in front of the class because a question I asked wasn’t good enough for him (Yes, him. Either he’s a jerk or a sexist jerk). An appropriate goal, with this in mind, would be to discover strategies to handle unintended gender bias situations like this in a professional manner. I search the app for gender inequality sessions, or jumping the gender gap workshops. I promise you, EVERY woman in a STEM field will have a similar experience whether it’s unintended/intended gender bias or the interrupting man, so maybe I plan on going to a networking event at the conference to connect with women who have “been there, done that.”

 

Morning of the First Day: You are full of energy this day, so plan to do things that are most important to you. Scroll through the app again and plan to go to sessions that look interesting to you. You’ve already set aside sessions to accomplish your goals, so try something else too. You won’t go to all of them, but then you have a plan for the next couple of days and you might learn something you didn’t expect. You feel awesome today, so dress like it too. Wear your pumps because your feet are going to hurt tomorrow and you won’t want to wear them again. Bring your conference tote with some resumes, a pen and paper, and a can-do attitude and prepare to conquer the world!

At the Conference: Be a sponge, absorb anything and everything. Annual conference has a lot to offer including the ginormous career fair (be prepared to stand in some lines. I stood in line for 45 minutes for a five minute conversation with a company rep in Philly), mega sessions, luncheons, hospitality suites, panels, awards dinners, ribbons to adorn your nametag, the SWE Boutique (bring some cash. USU has ∫exp(xy) shirts!), and many more that I can’t remember right now. Dude, the world is your oyster! Hit those sessions and buy a shirt from the boutique. Own it girl!

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Look at how bright and shiny they are! First day energy peeps.

Nights: I’m the type that likes to explore the city I’m in and your experience will be enhanced if you take in some local culture. Philly was easy since the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall were only a couple of blocks away, but other places may be harder to enjoy. Just go on a walk down the street and see what you can find. You may end up with a sweet new tattoo or husband (this is a joke. Nina says don’t get a tattoo or married while at SWE conference).

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Still can’t get over that Philly Cheese steak or that hair.

Nearing the End: Yo, you’re tired. Hang on! There’s still stuff to see the last day! You’re probably just wearing jeans and kicks at this point with your painful heels kicked in a corner in your hotel room. Still go to the conference, even if it’s only for one session.

USU SWE’s conference experience was a good one, and you can tell by how we all look in the following photo. We’re still gorgeous enough to attend the Academy Awards in this photo, but you can tell we’re exhausted. That’s the sign of a good conference. Go home exhausted.

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Utah State University SWE Section Annual Conference Attendees, Philadelphia, PA

Post Conference Follow Up: You went to this awesome conference, so share what you learned with your section. Whether it’s an officer meeting or general meeting, have people who attended talk about what they learned and how they are going to implement what they learned into their leadership role, education, profession, or lifestyle. Follow up is really important, so don’t forget it! It would also be wise to have someone (ie president or historian) write up an event evaluation that lists how arrangements were made, things that went well, things that didn’t go well, and what can be improved next time.

To sum up, don’t go to a conference empty handed. Go with a plan. Set conference goals, try something new, harness that first day energy, work hard by day, play hard by night, push through to the end, and always always always follow up once you’re home. With my goals and plans, I now feel better about having a family while working and found support from experienced women on dealing with my jerk professor (he didn’t get a nice evaluation). If there is one thing that I could say about making a great conference experience, I’d say have fun your way. Make it worth the time and effort in raising funds and don’t forget to make friends since that can be hard for us.

~Katie G

SWE CPP – HeForSWE YouTube Channel

SWE’s HeForSWE has begun working on their first episode of their YouTube Channel! Freshmen Representative, Dominic Hollman, along with HeForSWE Ambassador, Simon Lopez, collaborated on the first episode – What Happens When You Fail A Class? This YouTube series will focus on questions that many college students may have, and we do not want them to feel alone. Some of the topics include, How many units should I take? , What is it like being a commuter?, and How Can I Study Better? Although the first episode is still being worked on, SWE CPP hopes to make a new video every couple of weeks to encourage college students that they are NOT alone!

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CSUF SWE YMCA Outreach

One of our biggest SWE outreach event was on Oct. 13th at Maxwell Elementary School. Our CSUF SWE members were given the opportunity to interact with over 100 YMCA students, grades K – 6th. We were welcomed by the the eager students and had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and spoke a little bit about our major. Due to the difference in age We set up three activities that varied in difficulty level: gummy bear and toothpicks bridges, and popsicle stick catapults and slingshots. We allowed the students to design their own creations by providing an explanation of what each device is used for. Our SWE members had a blast working with the elementary school students and are looking forward to planning another fun filled day with Maxwell Elementary in the upcoming spring semester.

CSUF SWE Volunteer at ACM-W STEM Expo

On October 30th, SWE had the opportunity to participate in a STEM Expo held by CSUF’s ACM-W and Orange County Girl Scouts. The STEM expo consisted of lab tours for high school students and multiple outreach booths for k – 8th grade students. Our SWE members volunteered as lab tour guides and mentors for the high school girls providing them with advice and insight about their college experiences. CSUF SWE also participated in the outreach fair. Over 100 K-12 Girl Scout visited the SWE booth to build slingshots out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Since it was an on campus event, a great number of newer CSUF SWE members were able to experience their first outreach event. It was great seeing how so many girls interested in learning more about STEM and wanting to be a part of engineering in the future.

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CSUF SWE Place in Pumpkin Launch Competition

Every fall semester SWE competes in the Discovery Cube’s annual Pumpkin Launch Competition held at CSUF’s Intramural Field. The pumpkin launch competition is a fun,family event where teams ranging from elementary schools to father-son teams get to compete in the design, build and test of their own pumpkin launcher. Teams work all year long and CSUF SWE has been a crowd favorite placing in the top 3 for 4 consecutive years. CSUF SWE worked all semester trying out different designs in an effort to continue the winning streak. Despite the difficulties we had leading up to competition day, our last minute changes (made at 1am the day of the competition). Using a similar sling-shot design, consisting of garage door springs our our launcher, “Old Reliable,” pulled through hitting the target twice allowing us to tie for 2nd place along with Santa Ana College’s Engineering Club.

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