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Engineers recruit local talent

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Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 14:01

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Dayakar Naik, a Phd student majoring in Mechanical engineering, shows local high school students a demonstration in mechanical engineering. SAMANTHA BEHL photo


 

 

USU’s engineering program is loaded with male students, something evident to the Society of Women Engineers.  

Saturday, SWE hosted an outreach event for high school girls in the Engineering Building in an attempt to reverse that trend. 

According to enrollment numbers from the Fall 2012 semester, approximately 10 percent of all of USU’s 1,982 undergraduate students in the College of Engineering are female. Women make up about 15 percent of all USU 413 graduate engineering students, which offers a doctorate degree in engineering education.

“The percentage of women in engineering is relatively small,” said Gilberto Urroz, an associate civil engineering professor. “These types of programs are good to increase the appeal of prospective students and entice women into engineering.”

Professor Chris Hailey, associate dean in the College of Engineering, said eventually she wants to see women comprise at least 50 percent of all engineering students at USU

“In the country, there’s a shortage of engineers,” she said. “Engineers make a world of difference, whether it’s in the area of health or environment or energy or national security. All of those areas require technological solutions. They require engineers.”

Isabello Muffoletto, a senior from Logan High School who attended SWE’s Engineering Extravaganza, described the stigma.

“Personally, I don’t know any girls that would feel comfortable going into engineering,” Muffoletto said. “They don’t think they’re smart enough or that it’s a man’s field.”

Hailey said she thinks one reason the female population isn’t participating in the discipline is because the College of Engineering doesn’t do a good enough job letting high school students know the importance of the profession.

“By the time kids get to college, they’re no longer thinking about engineering because they never knew about it to begin with,” Hailey said. 

In an attempt to win over the girls in attendance, current Aggie engineers gave presentations at workshops highlighting the six departments within the College of Engineering with experiments ranging from testing the girls’ hair strength to discussing space shuttle launches. 

Urroz headed a workshop which taught recruits the effects of cavitation, a phenomena in hydraulics that can severely damage water pipes.

“We actually had an old casing of a valve that was heavily damaged by cavitation,” Urroz said. “I showed them one demonstration that they can see, actually, the cavitation occurring and then show them what the effect is.” 

Urroz said the recruits responded very well to the labs. 

“They were very engaged,” he said. “They were taking notes and taking measurements and interested in how to run the equipment.” 

Muffoletto said she enjoyed the workshops.

“I just like how it’s kind of big and upcoming with a lot of problem solving, which I like,” Muffoletto said. “It’s kind of like futuristic.”

Of the 34 who registered for the event, Hasbun said 28 high school girls attended Saturday’s all-day activities, compared to eight participants for 2012’s evening-only open house. 

Indhira Hasbun, SWE’s vice president of corporate affairs who is also a graduate student studying environmental engineering, said girls just need to give engineering a chance.

“Give it a try,” Hasbun said. “Even if they don’t know what engineering is, that’s what the whole event is about. They can get to know what it is.”

While the spike in recruiting priority comes months after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed official policy on age requirements for female missionaries from 21 years of age to 19, Urroz said recruiting female engineers has always been important.

“I think we’re going to be affected as bad as the university,” Urroz said. “We’re going to see a drop in the number of students in the next couple of years.”

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