It’s been a while. Work has been busy and I’m currently getting paid to write one blog post a week for Illinois Admissions, so I recommend you go check out some of my posts.

Currently, I’m preparing my last year of college when it feels like I was shopping for dorm room accessories just yesterday. For the next semester, I plan on spending my fall as most senior engineering students do: career fairs, job applications, interviews and site visits. I will be pursuing a full-time engineering role in industry relating to chemicals (or maybe consulting or refining).

But what about my love for engineering education?

Today, I read an article in from USA Today titled 74% of STEM Grads Don’t Get STEM Jobs. A sociologist conducted this research and described her findings, “STEM graduates have relatively low unemployment; however, these graduates are not necessarily employed in STEM occupations.” Even though 50% of engineers will take STEM jobs, only 14% of these engineers are women. It would be possible to seek a job related to science and math education to help inspire K-12 students to be engineers, but this is not where my passion lies. Universities are seeing an increase engineering enrollment, but the country is not seeing a result from this. There has not been an increase in full-time engineers, despite more students studying engineering.

MissPossible

One way my fellow engineering students at Illinois are raising the number of women in STEM (and business and finance and everywhere else) is with their start-up Miss Possible. Click this picture to learn more about their business and their Indiegogo campaign!

So I will help (hopefully) raise the 14% of female engineers and 50% of engineering students in a STEM occupation. I want to work in industry so I can figure out how incoming college students and freshman engineering students can learn and become passionate about STEM jobs. I cannot help narrow the gap between college and industry if I do not experience both. While I work in technical role, I will continue to help improve engineering education through volunteering with organizations like Big Beacon and First Lego League competitions.

Why do I care about Engineering Education?

I care about the 74% because this number cannot be stagnant. I also care about the 100%. Engineering outreach must not simply be “look how cool science can be”. It must show K-12 students what it means to be an engineering. Undergraduate students cannot be cooped up in a classroom talking about theory all day. They must be taught theory and then taken out into the real world to see the application of theoretical knowledge. Everyday, education must add value to the student so that it is not simply discarded after graduation. Instead of projecting something on a PowerPoint slide and saying “you’ll use this someday”, we must give students something that they can use today. We have a growing need for engineers, scientists and mathematicians in this country, but 74% are not employed in STEM fields. I challenge both the academic and industrial worlds to work together to change these numbers. Because if we change these numbers, we will change science, technology, research, manufacturing and so many more integral parts of our society. By improving engineering education, we will change the world.

What about my future?

I could go to grad school for PhD in engineering education. I could find a role within the company I work for that allows me to improve engineering education. I could find a new company committed to improving engineering education. I could be an entrepreneur and start my own company. There are so many opportunities to do so much and wherever I am in the future, I only know one thing: I will be working to change the world, one mind at a time.

Me and my fellow Girl Scout Counselors-In-Training at Camp Libbey in 2009. Four years later, I’m still in contact with half of these amazing young women.

 

Starting at age five, I became a Girl Scout. My mother insisted I join, though I did not understand it at the time. To this day, I am so thankful for the times she drove me home from school after troop meetings, helped me walk around the neighborhood selling Girl Scout cookies and sewed on the multitude of patches I earned on to my Brownie vest. My mom also allowed me to be parted from her and my family for a week every summer so that I could go to camp, where I became the person I am today. Summers spent at Camp Libbey will always be one of my favorite memories along with everyone who was a part of the experience.

 

Girl Scouts did more than teach me good marketing skills (always smile, act cute and show people pictures of Thin Mints) and how to build a fire (if you ever have trouble with making your flame catch, stale popcorn makes excellent kindling). Girl Scouts introduced me to my future career: engineering.

Dallas Girl Scouts participate in Cookie Box Creation competition, making a castle much more elaborate than my cookie box bridge was.

In seventh grade, my parents and I combed the camp brochures. I always participated in one sleepaway camp and one day camp during the summer. That summer was the first time Girls Scouts offered an engineering day camp in my area at the University of Toledo, a half hour drive from my house. I was a girl who participated in Mathcounts and owned a chemistry set, so my dad quickly convinced me that this camp would be perfect for me. He was right.

For a week, we explored different engineering labs and saw more research labs than I see during a week of my undergraduate studies. Counselors taught us the importance of having ideas and how to solve problems. During lunch, we played new board games like Alibi which focused on the cool use of logic. The last night, we slept over at the University of Toledo’s engineering auditorium just for fun. The best part of the project was building a bridge which could support our own weight out of Girl Scout [empty] cookie boxes. Being the little leader I was, I formed my group into teams who worked together to build the components of the bridge, put them together, and then beautify the bridge with paint and glitter.

I was awarded the title “Project Manager” off of the TV show The Apprentice by my counselors for all of my hard work and leadership.

This camp stimulated my interest in engineering and continues to fuel my passion for engineering. When I took a career aptitude test the next school year, it suggest chemical engineering. I chose chemical engineering because I felt empowered by the Girl Scout engineer course (and I remain a chemical engineer to this day). I knew that I could solve problems if I put my mind to it. I knew that engineering was where I belonged, no matter how male-dominated my advanced math and science classes became in high school. Girl Scouts helped me discover a world of engineering and I have never looked back since.

 

Note: To this day, Girl Scouts continue to encourage girls to be interested in math, science and engineering. They do research on how to encourage more girls to pursue STEM subjects. They sponsor FLL robotics teams. They host an Imagine Engineering website which explains different types of engineers. The Society of Women Engineers work with Girl Scouts to do workshops where female undergraduate engineers share their love for science with girls aged K-12. Please check it and help them pursue their mission by joiningvolunteering, partnering, donating, etc.

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