My Experience at SWENext DesignLab Baltimore

Community Innovator Award winner, Christina Patterson, shares her experiences attending SWENext DesignLab.
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On Saturday, February 9, Christina Patterson joined her peers at SWENext DesignLab during WE Local Baltimore, SWE’s local conference and career fair for women in engineering. SWENext DesignLab is an outreach event where students, parents and educators learned more about how they can inspire young generations to pursue their interests in STEM. The event also featured the SWENext DesignLab Community Engagement Challenge for high school students, and the SWENext Community Awards for girls in grades 6-12. Learn more about SWENext DesignLab here.


By: Christina Patterson, senior at Vincentian Academy, SWENext member and winner of the Community Innovator Award at DesignLab Baltimore

Christina Patterson, SWENext award winner, standing with parents
Community Innovator Award winner Christina Patterson (middle).

On Saturday, February 9, I was given the opportunity to meet a number of female engineers, professionals, and students who all had one thing in common: encouraging each other and ourselves to pursue or continue in STEM.

After signing in, we began by getting to know each other with an icebreaker. Throughout the day, some of the highlights were the Bias Training that we received from Dr. Mary Isaac. It was extremely interesting to interact with a room full of individuals with similar academic interests. During her talk, we learned about ways to treat others with both equality and respect despite their gender or cultural backgrounds. She also taught us that it’s okay to want to be successful and do what you love.

What I enjoyed most about the day was the “speed-networking” session that took place. We sat in circles of chairs and had the chance to meet a new female professional engineer every five minutes or so. In less than an hour, I met people with a combined experience of more than a hundred years in engineering. Both collegiate and professional females shared their invaluable advice about being a woman in a STEM field.

Towards the end of the day, we viewed presentations from local students on how they would solve a problem in the community. It was interesting to see how they all tackled the problem from different angles in spite of the fact that each team was from the Baltimore area. It was very cool to hear presentations from students as they demonstrated that age, gender, and background are not boundaries or borders, but something we should embrace.

I was very grateful to receive the Community Innovator Award alongside some incredible high schoolers who have made an impact in their community. Many of the girls I met were heavily involved in robotics, coding, research and encouraging younger girls to do the same.

During the presentations and awards, a number of parents and family members were present. I thought it was fitting that the people that encourage us were there to cheer us on as we approached the “finish line” of the day.

I have been a SWENexter for 4 years, and every event I have ever attended has been inspiring and motivational! This year was no different, and I made a number of new friends at the same time.


SWENext is a way to become part of the Society of Women Engineers as a student through the age of 18. For more information on SWENext awards, programs and resources, visit