This event recap was provided by Rishelle Wimmer of SWE Affiliate FH Salzburg.
The students at the SWE Affiliate FH Salzburg University of Applied Science often receive requests to participate as role models at activities designed to engage girls in STEM. One part of our first five-year affiliate plan has been to hold an outreach event. After hearing reports of SWENext activities such as Invent it. Build it. (IIBI), and then speaking with Stueti Gupta and Jashan Kaur from SWE Affiliate Pune (during an international affiliate conference call) about their WOW! That’s Engineering! program for girls, we were ready to initiate our own “makers workshop” for girls between 10 and 17 years old.
The first step was to find a good partner to work with. The director of Kompass (a governmental organization promoting STEM programs throughout the state of Salzburg), Ruth Mayr, had attended every one of our affiliate’s events since our inauguration in November 2017. Through her cooperation we were able to reach out to their network of schools and youth organizations to promote our event. Being able to distribute our event invitation through Kompass’ school contacts was a great resource. We also received goods and services from several of our university’s corporate and state sponsors, including the event location, transportation of displays, food, snacks and some great swag. In turn all our sponsors and their families received invitations and were encouraged to bring their daughters to the free event.
Another very central resource person was Darcy Andersen at SWE HQ, who shared her insights and experience from IIBI during several telephone calls and emails. Darcy provided us with practical program plans that we adapted for our event.
Two weeks before the event, we held a volunteer/role model workshop for our group leaders and some of our expo staff to prepare them for working with the girls, sharing their engineering story and building dance pads.
At the event on March 9, 2019, it was inspiring to watch all the girls excitedly discover each new activity throughout the expo and collect their achievement stamps after completing them. The expo gave them the opportunity to try out something new at every station including steering a large robot around the expo; programming little mBots to follow a maze; playing new computer games designed by some of our students; using VR to determine the best bicycle route from their house to school; 3D printing; building motorized LEGO models and robots; engraving metal plates; creating LED jewelry; and even disassembling a computer to learn what’s inside and then putting it back together and hoping that it works!
We also held a parallel program for adults (parents, teachers and university professors) interested in promoting girls in engineering. A university professor presented the results of her study on 17 year old high school girls being discouraged from choosing engineering studies and careers by their teachers and parents. As a result, a very lively discussion ensued among the 20 participants.
Another highlight of the event was seeing the girls all working eagerly to build their electric circuit into a dance pad, while observing how our SWE students and professionals inspired the girls through their personal stories. Just seeing the girls discover new things, experience engineering and make new friends was worth the effort and planning needed for this event.
SWE Affiliate FH Salzburg’s Maker Day for Creative Girls was a success and everyone was happy – not only the 25 girls who took part, but also the 20 volunteers (SWE supporters) who gave the girls the chance to have a real-life experience of engineering.