Having diversity in any field is a fantastic thing. It is also very important because not everybody thinks in the same way. Girls can bring great ideas to their engineering teams because they see things differently than a team with only boys can.
Some of the smartest engineers and inventors are women. In fact, women have been making history in engineering for hundreds of years! Just take a look at some of the incredible women below.
Hedy Lamarr, born in 1914, was an Austrian-American actress and inventor. Her intelligence was often overlooked for her beauty. But the people who knew her best recognized her brilliance.
When she was younger, her father inspired her to take interest in machines. He would take her for long walks, during which they would discuss different kinds of machines and systems and how they work. At age 5, she would take apart and reassemble her music box so she could understand how it worked.
As an adult, she created a tablet that, when dissolved in water, made soda that tasted like Coca-Cola. Most famously, Hedy Lamarr pioneered technology that has contributed to today’s WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth.
Dr. Grace Hopper
Grace Hopper was a computer pioneer. She was also a US Naval officer. She earned her master’s degree in 1930 and her PhD in 1934 in mathematics from Yale University. Dr. Hopper’s work contributed to computer languages and because of that, she is known as one of the first three programmers. During World War II, Dr. Hopper joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. During her service, she worked on top secret calculations with the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University.
In 1952, Dr. Hopper’s programming team developed the first computer language compiler, which translated mathematical code into a binary code. Binary codes can be read by more than one machine, and this was the first code of its kind. After this incredible breakthrough, her team went on to develop Flow-Matic. Flow-Matic was the first programming language that used English words in the command lines. This new development made computer programming more accessible to more people. Later, she contributed to COBOL, which went on to become the most commonly used computer language in the world in the 1970s.
Dr. Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She is also an inventor. Dr. Grandin was diagnosed with autism when she was a young child. Her autism has helped her see the world in a different way than neurotypical people do. Because she was sensitive to human touch, she designed and built a hug machine so she could still experience hugging without being touched by another person.
Dr. Grandin spent some summers at her aunt’s farm while growing up. There, she was able to connect with animals and understand them. Dr. Grandin credits her ability to think in pictures for her knack for understanding animals. Her autism and great attention to detail helped her notice problems in cattle handling facilities. She invented corral systems that made these facilities more humane. Her invention was so influential that similar systems with her design are being used around the world.
While she still teaches at the Colorado State University, Dr. Grandin also advocates for children who are on the autism spectrum.
Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison earned a scholarship for Stanford University when she was just 16 years old. There, she studied Chemical Engineering and African and African-American studies. She got her medical degree at Cornell University.
Dr. Jemison later became the first Black woman to go to space in 1992. She served on a seven-member crew on the Space Shuttle Endeavor mission. The mission lasted for eight days. Throughout the mission, she and her team conducted 44 experiments while they orbited Earth 126 times.
She later started a technical company called The Jemison Group. She founded a non-profit organization in honor of her mother. Her foundation runs science camps for young people. Her mission now is to achieve interstellar space flight within the century.
Her love for Star Trek inspired Dr. Jemison to go into space since she was a little girl. Imagine the thrill young Dr. Jemison would have had had she known she’d be the first real astronaut to appear as a guest on an episode of Star Trek!
These are just some of many engineers who have made a difference. If you are always thinking, always trying to solve problems, and you want to do things that can change the world, then engineering could be for you. The things you have learned, the hard things you might have gone through, and the way that you think could bring something amazing to the table. Who knows, maybe you could make history, too!
About the Author
Allison Osmanson is a Materials Science and Engineering PhD student and Semiconductor Research Corporation/Texas Instruments Fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. She holds a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of North Texas (2018) and she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Washington State University (2016). She plans to graduate in December 2021, after which, she will be a Microelectronics Packaging Engineer at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas.