Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day helps spark interest in STEM careers
2019-03-14 | 6 min read
I often talk about the need for technology corporations to support educational engagements in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) starting in the primary school years and throughout college and post-graduate education. Such support helps spark student career aspirations, provides additional tools in student development and engages local communities in education initiatives, all while ensuring the company and industry has a funnel of future skilled technologists. It’s a real-world win:win:win!
Taking this concept one step further, it is important to support programs that bring STEM education specifically to young women and girls, an underrepresented demographic in technology fields. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), women account for 28.8% of R&D roles worldwide (as of 2015).1 This shows the critical need to engage today's young women and girls in STEM education now to support their path to future technology careers. The critical age group to engage girls in STEM seems to be between 11 to about 15 years, as a 2017 study by Microsoft found that girls lose interest in STEM specifically between middle and high school.
To help make progress in gender parity in the technology industry, Keysight sponsors programs specifically focused on STEM education for young women and girls. One example is the company’s support of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED) — an annual event focused on bringing STEM concepts to students in grades 6 through 12. The program offers a tremendous opportunity to engage women already in STEM fields with girls in this critical age group to help spark STEM career aspirations.
This year’s Keysight IGED event fell on the last Saturday in February as part of National Engineers Week. In its 15th iteration of IGED, the company hosted 96 participants, supported by over 70 volunteers, at our headquarters site for hands-on science experiments and presentations.
I attended and helped kick off the event by providing examples of how engineering and STEM careers affect everyday life — from the social media accounts the students likely use daily, to the smartphones in their pockets. I highlighted how engineering, in particular, is changing the world all the time through creative technological innovations. In addition, the students heard from Vandana Duff, one of our own NextGen product marketing engineers. She described how she was introduced to engineering at a young age, and encouraged the participants to keep themselves open to possibilities and opportunities in the STEM field and to follow their passion.
In the experiment portion of the event, students were organized into teams of 3-4 and asked to work together as a project team to accomplish a defined technical task — in this case building a “Mars Lander.” This gave each participant the experience of being part of a technical team to solve a problem. Each team was required to construct a device or vehicle to drop a ping pong ball inside a makeshift “crater” made of PVC pipe, which had a target cup at the center that the ball was expected to land in. When completed, Keysight volunteers scored the teams based on the success of their devices over several deployment attempts, and awards were given based on overall scores, as well as for creativity, teamwork, and cost effectiveness.
Having participated in previous IGEDs, I was once again delighted to see the engagement and creativity of the participants, as well as the reach of the event. Open to students free of charge, the Keysight IGED event attendees came from a variety of schools and organizations. I found out that, while most of the participants were from our local Sonoma County, there were attendees from as far north as Ukiah, CA and two who came from as far south as Los Angeles, in the souther part of the state. To attest to the lasting impact of the event, we even had one past participant student return this year as a volunteer judge.
Over the 15 years that we have hosted IGED, we have been able to engage more than 1500 students through these STEM learning opportunities, providing the experience of real-world engineering teamwork and connections to women already in technical fields today. If these events spark just one participant’s interest in a future STEM career, it was well worth it!
- "Women in Science: Fact Sheet," UNESCO Institute for Statistics, June 2018