Outreach is one of SWE’s most important activities. SWE outreach programs inspire the next generation of women engineers and technologists. We expose young girls (K-12) to the possibilities of STEM career paths with engaging workshops and interaction with SWE role models. Here are a few things to consider when planning your section’s outreach activities:
Whenever possible, include activities that allow the students to solve problems, work with their hands, and interact with their peers. Need ideas about what fun engineering activities to include? Here are some resources to start you thinking:
- SWE Outreach Kits (for sale) – sponsored by Agilent
- Engineering Adventures Curriculum Units – Engineering is Elementary
- Applying Research to Practice – 4Δ (For Change)
Throughout the outreach activity, incorporate messages that positively portray engineering and its importance. The following messages have been shown to be the most useful in interesting kids, especially females, in engineering.
- Engineers are creative problem-solvers
- Engineers make a world of difference
- Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety
- Engineers help shape the future
See engineeringmessages.org for more advice on changing the conversation about engineering.
Talk to the Parents
Parents can play an important role in encouraging their children to pursue engineering careers. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign addresses this aspect at an annual outreach event called Mommy, Me, & SWE. During one portion of the event, the girls work on a design challenge while the parents meet in another room with a few event organizers. The parents have an interactive discussion about what they can do to encourage their children’s interest in engineering. Especially for the parents who do not work as engineers or are not very knowledgeable about STEM fields, the discussion is very helpful.
Be Role Models
Research shows that role models are important for expanding career options and exposing girls to STEM careers. While most young children – girls and boys – say that they like science, differences in confidence and interest in STEM begin emerging in middle school. Role models can help change this trend. It’s important to have volunteers helping at your outreach events who are enthusiastic about engineering, willing to engage the girls, and present a positive attitude. Need more volunteers? SWE has collaborative partnerships with the National Girls Collaborative Project and Fabfems. More details here.