US schoolgirls conducting engineering experiments

US schoolgirls tapped for engineering skills

Encouraging more women into the profession could help overcome a shortage of engineers, according to US campaigners who helped hundreds of schoolgirls become engineers for a day.

Called 'Invent It. Build It.', the event in Houston, Texas, saw more than 300 middle-school girls invent electric game boxes, construct devices for slinging ping-pong balls, build and race wind-powered cars, and learn about the engineering profession from volunteer mentors.

Organised by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in association with the Girl Scouts and a local TV station, the event was all about strengthening students’ problem-solving skills while also demonstrating the fun, hands-on applications of maths and science, said SWE president Alyse Stofer.

“SWE is committed to showcasing diversity within the engineering profession and sharing the incredible ways engineers contribute to improved quality of life,” she said. “We hope programmes like ‘Invent It. Build It.’ help inspire young women to consider this rewarding profession.”

“Women represent nearly half the US workforce, yet hold only a quarter of tech-related jobs,” added Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation, which sponsored the event. She highlighted Congressional reports that the US has a shortage of skilled workers in science and technology, and that the demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills will continue to rise.

Stofer said that more than 100 female engineers volunteered to help with 'Invent It. Build It.', which took place at the end of the SWE's annual conference. The volunteers served as role models and offered insight into their profession. Parents and educators were also involved, with special sessions designed to help them support and motivate students to pursue maths- and science-related careers.

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