By June Mathews
TRUSSVILLE — A group of female students from Hewitt-Trussville High School recently took a field trip into what could very well be their future. The students, enrollees of the HTHS Engineering Academy, visited a Birmingham engineering firm to learn more about the profession and interact with the female engineers there.
The field trip came about when Jim Meads, P.E., president and CEO of Sain Associates and a member of the HTHS Engineering Advisory Council, initiated a discussion with his female colleagues about “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” and encouraged them to get involved.
“We were excited to get in on the conversation for the first time this year,” said Alicia Bailey, P.E., a transportation team leader with Sain. “We’re fortunate to have several experienced and talented female engineers on our staff, but studies have found that many girls don’t even know what engineering is. There is a need for girls to see more role models advocating for the engineering profession.”
Joy Young, HTHS assistant principal and academies coordinator, agreed.
“Females are underrepresented as both engineering students and working engineers,” she said. “In the U.S., females comprise only 19 percent of the total engineering school population. We hoped to give the girls an opportunity to visit female engineers in the workplace so that they could see and understand that this occupation is an excellent option for females who are gifted in math, science, critical thinking and problem solving.”
The Sain experience included a presentation, a demonstration of the firm’s design software, office tours and a catered lunch. Because engineers often must collaborate and function effectively in teams, a team building activity was part of the program as well.
“One of our main considerations in coming up with activities was thinking back to what we would have liked to learn that may have helped us in picking engineering as a career,” Bailey said. “We even added a ‘What to Wear’ element because in the field of engineering, our job responsibilities vary greatly and require a wide range of attire.”
The trip, said Jason Dooley of the HTHS Engineering Academy, was scheduled as part of Engineering Week, a yearly observance designed to promote engineering careers to students, parents and educators, and to show how engineers make a difference in the world. And from the feedback he’s received, the Sain visit went a long way toward achieving those ends with the students who participated.
“The girls said it was good to hear how successful they can be even in the predominately male field of engineering,” he said, “and they came away with a sense of confidence that the hard work of going through engineering school will pay off with a rewarding career.”