Provincial Engineering & Geoscience Week


A Salute to Professional Engineers & Geoscientists

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2 | W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S P R O V I N C I A L E N G I N E E R I N G & G E O S C I E N C E W E E K Top, L-R: Heather Smart (P.Eng., CIPWIE), Melissa Lopushniuk (program adviser, Girl Guides of Canada - Manitoba Council) and Katherine Trotter (engineer-in-training, CIPWIE) take part in the Girl Guides of Manitoba/CIPWIE Badge Day focused on getting more girls interested in engineering. Above: Participants create bridges from cue cards and juice boxes, testing them with loads of pennies. Supplied photos A t present, women comprise only nine per cent of all practising engineers in Canada. Consequently, it's critically important that girls be exposed to programming that engages them in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities at an early age. With that in mind, Girl Guides of Manitoba recently took part in a Badge Day for local guides to earn a Girl Guides badge — plus a striking Girl Guides engineering crest developed by Engineers Canada. The Badge Day was organized by the Committee for Increasing the Participation of Women in Engineering (CIPWIE). CIPWIE is part of Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba. "Our objective is outreach at a young age aimed at interesting more young girls in engineering," says Heather Smart, vice- chair of CIPWIE. Smart is an engineer who works in Red River College's Applied Research Professional Technology Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing. That objective has resulted in the Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba/CIPWIE aligning themselves with female-oriented organizations such as Balmoral Hall, St. Mary's Academy and, of course, Girl Guides of Manitoba. Badge Day was held last Nov. 12 in the atrium of the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Engineering complex. Smart says while organizers hoped the event would be a success, they really didn't know what to expect. "Honestly, we didn't know what the support level would be, but we ended up getting an overwhelming response. We'd been hoping for 15 engineers (registered professionals and interns) to volunteer but got more than 25 — we actually had to turn away volunteers." The day's events were well-attended by girls age nine to 11. "They were very keen and excited. Over the course of the two-and-a-half hours, six groups took part in activities that spanned the different disciplines, such as mechanical, civil and electrical engineering," she says. "The activities were co- ordinated so they would overlap to fulfil the requirements to earn both badges." Suffice it to say, the competition flew by, it was so engrossing. "The girls loved everything about it," adds Smart. "All the judges were very passionate, and the girls really enjoyed their interest and all the feedback they gave them." Moving forward, the hope is that seeds were planted among more than just a few girls. "Our goal is to have women making up 30 per cent of newly licensed engineers by 2030, so we're hoping Badge Day and other similar activities will hit more than one in 10 girls to get them interested in a career in engineering," she says. "Hopefully, such activities will end up inspiring more girls who wouldn't have previously thought of engineering as a career." Smart acknowledges that the 30-by-30 goal is ambitious. Yet, you need to start somewhere. "While it would be great to achieve that goal, all we really want to see is steady growth, and a slow increase in the awareness (among girls) of engineering as a career option. There are great career options in the STEM field, and engineering is one of them," she says. How is that awareness — and then interest — generated? "By showing girls what engineering is really like," says Smart. "For example, we showed the girls how to build their own stethoscope out of tubing, plastic wrap and a Styrofoam cone. It was not only fun, but it worked — they were able to hear a heartbeat. Those are the things that fire up kids' imaginations, and that might get them interested in pursuing a career in engineering." What's the overall message being directed at girls? "That there's a place for you in engineering. If you're inquisitive, inventive, enjoy solving puzzles and coming up with solutions, it could be the field for you." To learn more about engineering as a possible career, visit ❚ Engineering diversity By Todd Lewys for the Free Press

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