Thanks to Sahara Becker, Society of Women Engineers Collegiate Member and Outreach Coordinator for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s SWE section, for sharing her review of the outreach activities that Region F collegiate sections organized in the fall of 2017.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
With the help of a grant from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) School of Engineering, the RPI SWE outreach committee was able to develop the idea for a new event called Mythbusters’ Challenge Day. This event was centered around the Mythbusters TV show, utilizing the scientific method and engineering problem-solving skills to design experiments and test common questions and myths like “How many balloons does it take to lift a house?” This was the first large-scale event that the RPI SWE outreach committee planned and executed in it’s entirety. The event also included a Parent and Educator Program and the attendance at this past year’s event included about 90 students and 40 parents. Additionally, as a result of the attention the event gained, Tracy Fanara, a competitor from last season’s Mythbusters show, reached out to support the event and she skyped in to do the opening comments at the event. Most notably, because the event was free, RPI SWE able to reach students from inner city schools and a group of refugees and immigrants. Because of the success of the event, the RPI SWE section has opted to make this a biannual event.
Tips from RPI to you!
- Look for opportunities to apply for grants or competitions to grow events and keep them affordable! It is important to bring STEM education to underserved communities and keeping the events low cost is crucial to gaining attendance from this population.
- Send out newsletters to your community about the things your section does. That way, when you open up registration for events you are hosting, people will recognize the SWE name and know all the amazing things you do and want to participate! Raising awareness about your SWE section can also prompt organizations to reach out to you to help out with their events.
Each year, Smith College SWE organizes Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGTED)! The event allows middle school girls to participate in activities related to engineering and computer science. It is a wonderful opportunity to allow girls the chance to get a flavor of engineering so they may choose to participate in it in their education and careers.
Tips from Smith to you!
It is important to maintain good communication and positivity. The best way to engage the community is to communicate through multiple outlets including emails, flyers and social media. In addition, keeping a Google Drive folder with up-to-date documentation and to-do lists has really helped the IGTED team collaborate while organizing our event. And finally, a positive attitude and confidence is key! Teams generally respond to the attitude of team leaders in any collaborative effort, and while planning IGTED our leaders have both had a positive attitude and confidence, which has made the planning of this event go really smoothly because of the good team dynamic!
The SWE Tufts chapter actively gives back to their community through community outreach. Every year, Tufts SWE participates in Tufts’ Community Day and Kids’ Day by holding booths with interactive activities. Tufts SWE has also created other independent events. These include collaborations with Strong Women Strong Girls, Tufts University Center of Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), and Tufts Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program.
In the 2017 fall semester, a group of members hosted a booth at Tufts Community Day and made paper rockets with the guests. In addition, Tufts SWE was honored to collaborate with Strong Women Strong Girls to create a day-long field trip for a group of elementary school girls. Activities included hands-on experience with TinkerCAD and a tour of the lab with 3D printers.
Tips from Tufts to you!
Over the years, Tufts SWE has learned that simple, engaging activities are the best. The event does not have to be complex or fancy; rather, as most of the outreach events are catered towards the younger population, activities are designed to be challenging and interesting. By remembering this and staying organized, Tufts SWE has been able to execute many outreach events a year.
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut section of the Society of Women Engineers is dedicated to increasing the number of females and organizes a number of programs to do so. Our largest event by far is “Multiply Your Options”, a one-day conference for 8th grade girls aimed at exposing students to female role models through hands-on activities and conversations with professional engineers. Our SWE section also aids in the organization of the university’s “Women in Engineering Day”, which gives high school students a chance to tour the campus and interact with female students, professional engineers, and faculty.
Tips from UConn to you!
- Advertise the event as early as possible so volunteers can coordinate with their schedules.
- Follow up with potential participants, because most people need frequent reminders to sign up.
- Partner with other organizations that have a similar mission like NSBE and SHPE.
- Spend a lot of time creating content so that it is appropriate for the audience.
University of Rhode Island
Last semester, our SWE chapter planned and facilitated 3 outreach events with local Girl Scouts troops. We met with them and discussed engineering and how it plays into our daily lives, the various engineering disciplines, and a science concept. We made homemade lava lamps and discussed the concepts of density and polarity, and we did a gum drop-textbook challenge for which we discussed geometry (shapes, bases, and joints). We also participated in the annual Girl Scouts workshop planned by SWE-NESS in which 50-100 girls elementary school-aged receive science badges. This year, the workshop was called “Physics is Phun,” and we facilitated STEM activities in the following areas: force and motion, electricity, aeronautics, optics, acoustics, and space. During this workshop, we also held a Parent Educator Program in which parents learned how to encourage STEM interest at home.
Tips from URI to you!
When we do outreach events, even on large scales, we try to break the girls into smaller groups so that they get individual attention from us. We talk through the concepts before the activity and then discuss with them during the activity so they are thinking about what is causing the reactions they’re observing. This also allows us to address any confusion early on in the event. Talking to them about how engineering is applied to their hobbies gets them to appreciate engineering for its everyday applications beyond numbers.
Yale gradSWE hosted two Engineering Day events during the fall of 2017. In October, we kicked off our outreach year with our first ever Engineering Explo! Engineering Explo was an event for middle school students and their families. We set up a variety of booths designed to showcase the different disciplines of engineering—each booth had a few exciting demonstrations or quick hands-on activities to engage the students, ranging from learning about telecommunications to making mock medical devices to remediating a mock oil spill. This was a fair-style event; students and their families explored the different booths at their own pace.
In December, we held a smaller Engineering Day for high school students, focused on environmental engineering and electronics. We started off the day by discussing the importance of monitoring air quality, and had our high school students brainstorm how they might measure particulate matter concentrations in the atmosphere. Then, after an introduction to breadboards, microcontrollers, and coding, we connected a particulate matter sensor to an Arduino, programmed the assembly to record data, and tested our designs!