What I Learned at WE16 and Invent It. Build It.
WE16 and Invent it. Build it. taught me to continue pursuing engineering even if the odds are against me. There are girls and women all over the world facing the same struggles as you and me.
Our guest Invent it. Build it. blogger is Bekah, a member of FIRST® Robotics Competition Team 4087 from New Orleans, LA. She is currently a junior at Benjamin Franklin High School where she is also a competitive swimmer. Bekah aspires to be an electrical/mechanical engineer and her goal is to work on the next generation of the mission to Mars.
Hello fellow SWENexters!
I was a recent guest attendee at the 2016 Society of Women Engineers WE16 Conference in Philadelphia, PA. (Many thanks to FIRST, Southwest Airlines and SWE for this wonderful opportunity). It was three whole days of fun, learning, and an atmosphere of total girl power! I thought I might share a few of the most important things with you that I learned at the event.
- Share your story. As a high schooler surrounded by mostly collegiate and professional SWE members, I was at first terrified that my mere sixteen years would not even come close to the impressive journeys of those incredible women. I soon found out, however, that many women were super interested to hear my story and share valuable advice to help me create my story’s future.
- The big Cs (college and careers) are not as daunting as they may seem. At the Career fair on Friday, I was met with so many smiling faces of female engineers welcoming me into their company or college programs. Even though they knew I was a high schooler and their company held no positions for me until college, most companies took the time to sit and discuss future opportunities for me. This showed me that women that band together create a network of support for one another.
- If you aren’t 100% sure of what you want to do in the future, it is A-Okay! Many of the women who earned prestigious SWE awards shared in speeches that they changed their majors and interests multiple times before finding what they truly loved. These women were just like you and me and they turned out pretty fantastic! If they can do it, so can we.
- Engineering is legitimately everywhere. Who would have thought that the Kellogg Company (yes…the cereal company) would need engineers? There are so many STEM jobs in the world that are overlooked simply because we don’t know about them. There are also so many types of engineering. I met a super cool girl who wants to become an optical engineer. Just about anything you can think of is probably touched by the vast field of engineering.
- SWENext is the place to be. I recently joined the world of SWENext, a completely free opportunity for girls 17 and under to become members of SWE and participate in fun activities held by local SWE Sections. At WE16, I met at least a hundred SWENexters from across North America and had a blast discussing STEM topics while taking selfies and eating brownies. I can’t wait to create a SWE club at my school to encourage other girls to enter the STEM life.
- Invent it. Build it. Like a girl. (Why let boys have all the fun?) On Saturday, I participated in the high school division of the SWE Invent It, Build It. outreach event for girls. We got to do fun building challenges and meet Ariel Biggs, a magnificent racecar driver who shared her journey of embracing the term “like a girl”. The best part was meeting girls my age from all over the country who share the same interest in STEM that I do.
- The world can’t contain girl power! I met SWE members from all over the world, in a wide range of roles/fields, who are smart, beautiful and doing some pretty awesome things. Who would have thought on a Friday night that I would be discussing robotics with an amazing woman from Turkey?
WE16 taught me to continue pursuing engineering even if the odds are against me. There are girls and women all over the world facing the same struggles as you and me. I also learned that while I work to find my way, there is an entire army of women ready to support me—I just have to look for them in places such as FIRST and SWE. Women mentoring women is a valuable, powerful resource and the surest way for all of us to change our world.
WE16 was an amazing opportunity and I can’t thank everyone enough who made the trip possible for me. I will take what I have learned and use it to encourage other young women to consider engineering or any other STEM field to find and pursue their passion.