Workshop helps young women connect with engineering, technology

Jessica Addington

For high school women not sure what career path to choose, SDSU has given them a chance to try engineering.

Ready SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) Go, an event specifically for high school girls, was held Nov. 3 on campus. The event is a one-day camp where girls are encouraged to explore the world of engineering by participating in three sessions of hands-on activities. SDSU saw 85 high school students attend the program.

Rebecca Schmieding, an International Business Machines retiree who now works for the Mayo Clinic, helped set up the event. Ready SET Go is a smaller model designed to encourage young girls to go into the engineering field.

“Diversity is important so that companies can meet the needs of their customers,” Schmieding said. “With the computer-related technologies such as dishwashers and laundry machine washers and dryers, it’s good to have a woman’s perspective on this technology because on average women use it more often than men.”

According to Secretary for the College of Engineering LaVonne Riechers, a mix of faculty workers, professionals and SDSU students contributed to putting the event together. Engineering professor Suzette Burckhard helped coordinate the structural engineering activity, which focused on the amount of force that bridges, towers, structures and even the human body can handle. The girls built structures and then tested their performance by using digital engineering tools.

Another activity focused on geospatial technologies. The students learned about technology such as global positioning systems, geographic information systems, remote sensing and satellite imagery websites.

Laura Froehlich, a second-year electrical engineering major, and Emily Parupsky, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major, helped with the third event. The students were taught about the different elements that allow electrical circuits to work. The girls were then given the opportunity to create Christmas tree ornaments based on these principles.

“This allows these girls to start building those relationships and connections if they do decide to go into engineering,” Parupsky said.

The sessions are new every year for Ready SET Go so that revisiting students aren’t required to go through the same activities.

Ready SET Go started in 2006 and has been active for the past seven years. Female engineering enrollment numbers at SDSU were 6.9 percent of the total engineering population in 2005 but are now 13.3 percent in 2012.

The camp was started for several reasons. Ready SET Go encourages young women to excel in whatever field they go into, especially male-dominated fields.

“Most talented females don’t pursue engineering because they don’t know what engineers do,” said Richard Reid, associate dean for the College of Engineering. “This workshop helps young girls know that there are options.”

For Alyssa Clemen, a junior engineering major at SDSU, the Ready SET Go camp reinforced her decision for college.

“This camp has helped young girls to decide either to go into engineering or not,” said Julie Clemen, Alyssa’s mother. “The camp does encourage the girls that yes, they can do engineering if they want to.”

The participants only pay $10 for the camp. The rest of the money for this event comes from alumni donations, IBM grants and various other sponsors.

“This event has big support from the SDSU and the engineering industries,” Schmieding said. “It’s a good approach of blending both industry and education in one event.”