The Northern Illinois University chapter of the Society of Women Engineers recently received the Best Collegiate Section Award – National Level and Second Place in the Small Section division of the Society of Women Engineers.
The Society of Women Engineers, which was founded in 1950, works to recognize the achievements of women engineers. Members of the NIU chapter also work to make the path easier for girls considering careers in the field.
“Mentoring via interaction with positive role models is a very powerful tool to recruit and retain women in the field of engineering,” said Suma Rajashankar, faculty adviser to the NIU-SWE section for the past four years.
Those mentoring activities include:
- NIU-Enhancing Engineering Pathways (NIU-EEP) – A collaborative effort with the Girl Scouts of America, this program connects middle school and high school girls interested in engineering careers with NIU engineering students who act as mentors to keep them on the right path. “One of the major successes of this NIU-EEP program has been the interaction of the NIU-SWE section members with the participants on various engineering hands-on projects over the last four years,” Rajashankar said. “This would not have been possible without the support from the Motorola Solution.
- Invent it. Build it – held in conjuction with the 2011 SWE National Conference at McCormick Place in Chicago, this program attracted hundreds of area Girl Scouts who, with the assistance of NIU SWE students, worked on challenging problems gleaned from PBS show, ‘Design Squad,’ ” Emrich said. “The girls loved it!”
- STEMfest — Members of the chapter also assisted at NIU’s annual STEMfest, a day-long event which strives to “increase public awareness of science, technology, engineering, and math initiatives, activities, careers, and education. Members of the chapter also assist at STEM science nights and science fair “idea nights” at middle schools and high schools throughout the region.
- Get Wise – Members of SWE also participate in Get Wise (Get Women Interested in Science and Engineering) presentations in Aurora and Rockford, which provides middle school and high school girls with hands-on experiences and a support system to foster interest in careers in science and engineering. The program is funded by the E.Eugene Carter Foundation.
Such activities have helped the NIU chapter of SWE grow by more than 200 percent over the last four years.