New Camp Aspires to Inspire Female Engineers
MATTHEW I. EUZARRAGA | August 10, 2017
Some El Paso area girls will be heading back to school with new knowledge and a new perspective gained in a unique summer camp. The University of Texas at El Paso's College of Engineering hosted an all-girls Excellence in Technology Engineering and Science, summer institute program (ExciTES) this summer. The camp, done in collaboration with Women In eNgineering (WIN), was rooted in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). WIN, a College of Engineering program, serves as a network to encourage, enlighten and empower women who are pursuing a degree in an engineering field. With three major groups – faculty, practicing professionals, and students – WIN has a unified focus to inspire and empower women to unleash their creativity in pursuit of innovation through engineering.
The ExciTES Institute and WIN have partnered to introduce female students to a variety of majors the College of Engineering has to offer. The camp was open to girls in grades 3-11 and offered three levels. Each level included a variety of activities and opportunities according to grade. The camp schedule included writing code, creating small-scale hot air balloons and racing carts. All activities were conducted in the engineering laboratories and facilities where current engineering students and faculty were available to campers for guidance. Girls enrolled in the all-day WIN camps grades 6-11 were treated to a special luncheon where they had the opportunity to network with professionals in the industry and engineering faculty.
"The luncheon was an opportunity for young women to talk with female professionals," said Patricia Nava, Ph.D., associate dean of engineering and director of WIN. "We provided role models that are advanced in their careers, and demonstrated that there are successful women in the engineering field."
Currently there are 2.3 million engineers within the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Out of those, only 313,000 are women, which is equal to 13 percent. WIN's goal is to help increase that number. Nava has said, and research shows, that women bring a new approach and perspective to problem solving. She is hopeful that women can bring a new vision to the industry.
Lourdes Moreu, who attends El Paso Independent School District's Silva Health Magnet High School Program, participated in the camp and wants to be one of those women who makes a difference in engineering.
"It's frustrating," said the 17-year-old. "I want to demonstrate that I can get a Ph.D. I'm just as capable as any male counterpart." Moreu, who has had a passion for STEM since the age of seven, said she loved the ExcITES camp and plans to attend the California Institute of Technology and become a geochemist.
ExcITES organizers hope the program will impact young girls, as it did for electrical and computer engineering senior Priscilla De los Santos.
"The reason I am an engineer now is because my sister took me to ExciTES when I was going into high school," De los Santos said. "If it wasn't for ExciTES, I don't know what I'd be majoring in. The experience has helped me become a program ambassador to help ensure the camp is an enjoyable experience for young girls."
UTEP faculty and staff hope to recruit more young women to ExciTES in the hopes that they, too, will change the future and become a WINgineer.