Three Decades of Success for the SWE RMS Essay Contest
Social media is a wonderful thing. Without Society of Women Engineers – SWE on Facebook, we wouldn’t have discovered this story about SWE Rocky Mountain Section’s Great Women in Engineering and Science 6th Grade Essay Contest. In the contest’s debut year, SWE Board Member Heather Doty entered!
The Great Women in Engineering and Science 6th Grade Essay Contest has been a SWE-RMS outreach program for 29 years. Students research one of five female engineers/scientists and submit a 500-word essay. The five subjects of the essay change each year to feature women from different STEM careers. In 2016, the five engineers/scientists were Mae Jemison, Kathleen Lonsdale, Chien-Shiung Wu, Emily Warren Roebling, and Alice Hamilton.
The students are encouraged to use three or more sources from various media to research the subject and describe her life, achievements, and awards along with the significance of her work. For many of the students, this is their first research paper. Essays are submitted by email, mail, and Google Docs.
Honorable mention, honorable merit, and finalist prizes are awarded to the top essays after two rounds of judging. Judges receive essays, a grading rubric, and biographies by email.
The honorable mention winners receive a book of science experiments, the honorable merit winners receive a science kit, and the finalists receive both in addition to a small cash prize. In 2016, the prizes were the Snap Circuits Jr Electronics Discovery Kit and 101 Great Science Experiments. All participating students receive a certificate and pencil with the SWE logo. The three finalists are also recognized at the annual SWE-RMS award ceremony along with collegiate and professional members. This allows them to meet local women in engineering and further exposes them to engineering career options.
Schools are awarded book prizes for class participation greater than 20%. These books include biographies of notable female engineers/scientists and encourage participation in future contests by providing a library reference for the students. In 2016, schools received either Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World or Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine.
The objective of the contest is to foster an interest in science, engineering, and technology in middle school students and to introduce students to female role models who have achieved significant success in STEM fields.
While SWE’s Heather Doty no longer has her original submission from when she entered the essay contest, she does have the submission certificate, which was signed by the SWE RMS section president, who is still a member of the section and who coordinates judging for awards SWE-RMS sponsors at the Colorado State Science Fair!
For more information, please visit: www.swe-rms.org.