Secondary school girls enjoy engineering eye opener at TCD
29 July 2015
Trinity College Dublin (TCD) welcomed secondary school girls from four schools (Our Lady’s Terenure; Santa Sabina, Sutton; Lucan Community College; and St Michael’s, Claremorris) for its seventh annual two-week eye-opener into the wonderful world of engineering.
The fourth and fifth year girls learned about the prospects and opportunities open to engineers while enjoying demonstrations and talks and engaging in problem-solving exercises and design challenges.
A favourite this year was the portable speaker project, where each student designed and built a speaker to plug into their mobile phone. The project covered design, basic theory, and electronic circuit construction and soldering, before the students used 3D printers to finalise their custom casing designs.
“With a 5:1 ratio of males to females in Irish engineering, we must all work harder to create a more balanced demographic. As well as helping address the supply shortage of graduate engineers, more female students and practitioners will result in increased diversity which leads to better decisions as well as more innovative designs and outcomes,” said course co-ordinator and assistant professor in mechanical and manufacturing engineering at TCD, Kevin Kelly.
Prof Kelly believes the course is going from strength to strength for three main reasons: it is free of charge, ensuring access is not restricted by finance; meaningful and lasting partnerships continue to develop with secondary schools; and students are invited to partake on the basis of ability, rather than pre-existing motivation. As a result, ‘don’t know’ and ‘maybe’ students are invited in preference to those who already have strong inclinations towards studying engineering.
The programme is facilitated by staff members and graduate students and by a team of undergraduate summer interns. Some of this year’s interns had participated in the programme when they were in school, and as such were in a special position of having been on ‘both sides of the table’.
Katie Petherbridge, an engineering with management second-year student at TCD, initially had her heart set on a nursing qualification.
“When I participated in the summer programme I realised that there was so much more to engineering than I had thought. I couldn’t wait to come back for a second year, and by then I was pretty sure of what I wanted to do,” she said.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing now, even though it is pretty hard work at times, and being able to talk to the girls as someone who was recently in their shoes was really fun, too. I loved designing activities for them to do, to show them what engineering can be like, and also talking about my own experiences in my course – such as showing them the resonator guitars that we designed and built for our second year project,” she added.
Prof Kelly hopes the course will increase the visible options for female students, by raising awareness of what an engineering programme can offer. There have been many ‘top-down’ approaches to encouraging girls in engineering, but the numbers are stubbornly low – and not just in Ireland. The key to change may lie in engaging bottom-up approaches, as we know that role models are important in precipitating long-term change.
“With what we’re doing here, we are reaching potential students directly, but more importantly we’re also disseminating a key message through what we know are the key information channels: parents, teachers and peers.
“Things like the posters and videos we make for each school – showing that their students engaged in the summer programme – and the conversations and experiences of the girls, their parents and teachers, can have a significantly larger and longer-lasting impact than other types of outreach,” he said.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/07/29/secondary-school-girls-enjoy-engineering-eye-opener-tcd/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/TCD-Summer-School1-1024x683.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/TCD-Summer-School1-300x300.jpgNews3D Printing,STEPS,Trinity College Dublin,women in engineering