McWane Science Center event opens Alabama girls’ eyes to world of engineering

McWane Science Center event opens Alabama girls’ eyes to world of engineering
Girls in Engineering day reveals potential career paths to young women. (Brittany Faush / Alabama NewsCenter)

Engineering may not be the dream of most girls, but after a day of meeting with professional women engineers this week and learning about their jobs, Jorja Nassirian thinks it would be a “cool” career.

“I think building bridges and working with my hands would be cool, and I just want to help people,” said Nassirian, a Shelby County High School ninth-grade student. “I have kind of wanted to be an engineer, but I need a better idea of what field to go into.”

Nassirian said her goal is somewhat clearer now. Construction engineering particularly captured her interest after taking part in Girls in Engineering Day at the McWane Science Center on Feb. 8.

McWane and Sain Associates Inc. hosted the half-day event to introduce girls to the world of engineering and open their minds to the possibilities the field can offer. More than 100 teachers and students from high schools, including Pell City, Hewitt-Trussville, Shelby County, Spain Park, Shades Valley and Alabama STEM Education, were on hand for the event.

Girls in Engineering Day offers potential career paths to Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“We are excited to have this group here at the science center,” said Amy Templeton, president and CEO of the McWane Science Center. “This is a chance for working women to connect with these young girls and tell them what it’s really like to be an engineer. Engineering has historically been a male-dominated field. But if you miss out on having women in engineering, you miss out on recruiting some of the brightest, most innovative and creative minds.”

After a brief welcome and educational session, the girls started their day with the Imax movie “Dream Big,” where they saw the power of engineering in action and its impact on the world. Then, they met one-on-one with professionals from 16 area companies. These women shared their experiences, provided career tips and answered questions.

Micah Pruitt, a Shades Valley High School junior, said her favorite part of the day was the interactive circuitry experiment at the Alabama Power booth. The girls turned on a light bulb by connecting snap-on circuits.

“I really had to think about how to make the light bulb go on and off. I was really proud of myself,” said Pruitt, who dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer.

TaShundra Robinson, one of the volunteers from Alabama Power, said although she knew as a high school student that she wanted to be a chemical engineer, she had no idea what that entailed.

“Having the opportunity to share my passion for environmental engineering with these girls and inspire them to keep going on their college journey is important to me,” said Robinson, a Southern Company Services Environmental Assessment engineer. “College can be tough. But even when it’s tough, I want to help them see that it’s worth it.”

This event was in support of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, or Girl Day. This worldwide movement promoted by Discovery E (formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation) is dedicated to mobilizing and supporting the engineering and technology volunteer communities.

“Sharing our experiences with young people is a way to give back to our profession, but it also reminds us why we love engineering,” said Becky White, principal/owner, Sain Associates. “For the women in our office, Girl Day is a chance to ignite a spark that might change a girl’s life. That’s exciting!”

Along with the McWane Center and Sain Associates, Girls in Engineering Day was sponsored by Volkert Inc., Alabama Section Institute of Transportation Engineers, Neel-Schaffer Inc., AECOM, ATC Group Services Inc., Birmingham Engineering and Construction Consultants Inc., Skipper Consulting and the Society of Women Engineers.

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