Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
The ExxonMobil Foundation and National Engineers Week Foundation collaborated for the 10th consecutive year to host Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. The program promotes interest in engineering among middle-school students and helps reduce the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
“We can inspire our nation’s youth to pursue STEM careers by capturing their interest at an early age,” said Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day helps young women gain self-confidence and an appreciation for the engineering profession by learning from role models and taking part in engaging math and science activities.”
The event only helped encourage Ashley Merzedez Guerrero-Estrada’s plans for the future. A student at Ann Richards Middle School DISD, Ashley plans to one day be an astronaut.
“We have to work in teams and you get to hear other people’s ideas,” Ashley said. “I like doing that, because I’m like ‘that’s cool’ or ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Then you get to build something, which is what I like the most. I’m a kinetic learner.
“To be an astronaut, you need to have a math, science or engineering degree, so I’m going to get an engineering degree. I like stars and astronomy and all that kind of stuff. And I am a daredevil, so next to doing all that cool stuff, I get to be somewhere nobody really gets to go ever in their lifetime. People can say ‘I’ve gone to Hawaii,’ or ‘I’ve gone to Tokyo.’ But they can’t say ‘I’ve been to space.’
“You have to work really hard to be an astronaut. So it will be one of those thing where I will know I have worked this hard and I got something really cool. It will be one of those it is hard but worth it things.
“This event is mostly about girls. So if people say ‘you can’t do this because you’re a girl,’ say ‘s*** them.’ We are all girls here, and we are doing something really awesome.”
ExxonMobil employees led hands-on activities that connect math and science to everyday life and reinforce classroom instruction. Activities include water-purification experiments, energy-industry demonstrations using 3D technology to search for oil and natural gas and exploring the science of manufacturing cosmetics.
Throughout her formative years, Aminia Randolph, a student at Irving’s Crockett Middle School, has been focused on a sports career. However, her experiences at ExxonMobil have opened the door to some new possibilities.
“I like experiencing all the science things we get to do and see here,” Aminia said. “The one career I wanted to do in my life was play basketball. I never thought about anything like this, but it’s fun. I love math and science, so I would consider a career in cosmetics. I think girls should consider engineering, because it is fun.”
“The National Engineers Week Foundation is committed to helping students -- especially girls who are underrepresented in engineering and technology -- discover engineering and how it helps the world,” said Leslie Collins, executive director, National Engineers Week Foundation. “Our partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation enables thousands of youth to envision a fulfilling future through a career in engineering.”
The need to engage girls in math and science studies, and eventually careers, is critical. The National Science Foundation estimates that 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require math and science knowledge. The Congressional Joint Economic Committee reports that women represent just 14 percent of engineers and comprise only 27 percent of mathematics and computer-science professionals.
Programs like Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day are helping more young women gain the knowledge and skills associated with STEM careers to alleviate the workforce deficit.
Contains information provided by ExxonMobil Foundation.