Outreach and SWE

Outreach is important! Many of us would not be where we are without someone else taking the time to teach us a bit about STEM. For me, it was participating in an Engineering summer camp that helped convince me to be an engineer. What was it for you?

Numbers are also important. As graduate students, we understand that data needs to be collected to convince others of the impact of our design or research projects.

Combine outreach and numbers and we get the SWE Outreach Metrics Tool! The OMT is a rather neat way of measuring the impact of SWE members around the world.

The Outreach Metric Tool (OMT) is a simple 10 question survey to complete after your outreach events. These are events that focus on students ages 4-18 and/or their adult advocates such as parents, educators, and group leaders. These events should directly impact K-12 students, parents, and educators, to help them explore and understand engineering disciplines and careers. K-12 outreach events to be entered into the OMT include:

  • Special engineering events planned, executed, and led by SWE member organizations OR led by a partner organization, such as an engineering society or industrial firm, where, for example, a SWE collegiate, professional, or MAL chapter, formally participated
  • Individual K-12 outreach efforts of SWE members

This means that you can catalog EVERY outreach activity you engage in to further SWE’s mission.

  • Volunteer at your local Science Olympiad? Enter it.
  • Give high schoolers a tour of your lab or company? Enter it.
  • Visit an elementary school for career day? Enter it.
  • Collaborate with Tau Beta Pi for one of their programs? Enter it.

The more data we collect, the more we can advocate for the SWE mission!

Okay, now you are thinking, “Liz, this is great! But, I don’t do much outreach…” Fear not dear SWE member, there are lots of resources to help you. I’ve listed a few interesting ones below.

Outreach Resources 

  • Constance and Nano – SWE’s new comic book: http://constanceandnano.swe.org/
  • Simple Science “Snacks” from San Francisco’s Exploratorium: https://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks
  • SWE’s Outreach Home Page: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/k-12-outreach
  • SWE Member Resources: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/swe-members
  • Instructions on how to plan an event: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/page/4768-Outreach-Toolkit

My current favorite is the new SWE poster! What is your favorite outreach tool?



New GradSWE Student Mentoring Program

Hello GradSWE Community!

My name is Genevieve Kane – and I’m proud to be your GMC-Elect this year!  For my first blog post, I wanted to talk to you about one of the ideas that I am spearheading and hoping to develop for the GradSWE Community – a mentoring program!

Mentoring can come in many different forms, which is something that I’ve personally learned and experienced throughout my academic career.  I remember the first time I was exposed to the idea of having a mentor was when I participated in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a pre-engineering program offered through my high school.  In this program, we had a class called Engineering Design and Development (EDD), which allowed a team of high school engineers to find something they thought was a problem, and come up with a unique, technical solution to that problem (that has never been used or patented).  Every group was assigned a mentor, who was there to guide the team to a successful end to their project.  I remember struggling with this concept – not knowing what questions I COULD ask, SHOULD ask, or what I should really discuss when I met with this very wise, professional engineer.  Thankfully, over the years I have been fortunate enough to keep in contact with this wise mentor, and many others, as I became a mentor myself in PLTW, overseeing EDD projects.

Even though I wasn’t comfortable with asking questions and seeking advice in high school, there came a time in my undergraduate education where I didn’t have a choice anymore.  I think we have all experienced that point in our career where we reach a point that we hit some barrier – be it academic, personal, etc.  In my case, it was a specific professor who spent an entire lecture discussing why girls weren’t good at science.  At that point, I had no other undergraduate females in my STEM major, and no one to really talk to about how that made me feel.  So, I walked upstairs and I showed up at the office door of one of my female professors.  I must have waited ten minutes in the hallway before I had the courage to knock, but when I did, she welcomed me into her office with open arms, ready and willing to listen to what happened to me, and express her distaste that these situations were still happening in schools.  I remember that she told me it wasn’t anything I did wrong – and that I was a perfectly fine student who just needed to keep going to the finish.  I did, and on occasion, I would stop by and chat with her to discuss my progress, or ask advice about things like careers, graduate school, or how to deal with some issues that came up that might be unique to women.

Thankfully, by graduate school, I became more comfortable with the idea of asking for guidance and help.  I’ve attended two graduate schools, and in both I’ve received amazing guidance from professors that have helped me along the way.  I’ve found a plethora of good mentor relationships, including my very supportive and amazing advisor who always seems to know what to say when I need it, and even some graduate students who have gone through programs before me that continue to provide me with support and guidance along the way.  I feel very happy to say that I’ve even been able to dole out some sage advice to newer graduate students, professionals, and young engineering students alike, and maintain contacts with many of these people over time.

So – what’s the point?  My story is not so uncommon, it seems.  It takes time to become comfortable in your own skin, and to build relationships with your colleagues.  I’ve been approached by a lot of students over time, that have said they wished they had someone to talk to for guidance, and didn’t know who to turn to, or what type of relationship they even wanted to establish.  Just that they really wanted to have some guidance in their lives, and that it would be great if there was some way to help them make those contact.

My hope is that, by starting a mentoring program for graduate students, we can do something about this in our own SWE community.  In SWE, graduate students are everywhere – they exist as collegiate members, sometimes they have their own GradSWE groups, and half of graduate student members are part of the professional sections!  SWE has a lot of opportunity to offer mentorship to graduate students, with many potential matches available.   We, as graduate student, can also help mentor others, since we have had different experiences in life than some professionals who may be looking to head back to graduate school, undergraduates who might want someone to look up to, or even our graduate peers.

How do we start?  We are hoping to start by finding interested graduate students and professionals members in our community.  If you’re interested, consider filling out this survey:


Once we have figured out the interest in different mentoring pairs, we will send out a specific application to those individuals so that we can assign good mentoring pairs.  Not all people will want the same experience or relationship with a mentor – some people may just want someone to contact by email if they have questions about their job hunt, or school hunt!  Others might want to meet in person, or work towards specific, set goals that their mentor can help them with.  We will do our best to match people up based on their interest level, and whether they prefer a local mentor, or someone that they can reach out to in another SWE region.  Our hope is that we can get pairs set up for WE ’16, so that a meeting can be arranged!

Thank you all for reading – and if you have any questions, please email me at grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org!  Hope you are having a productive, and fun summer!



Role Models for the Next Generation of Females Engineers

Last weekend I volunteered for a SWE outreach event put on by my university chapter where around two hundred high school girls came to campus to learn about what it is like to be an engineer and how to prepare for college.  It got me thinking about my own experiences regarding applying for college, deciding about whether or not to go into engineering, and sticking with engineering in graduate school.  There have been many times in my academic career that I have wanted to quit and thought that I wasn’t as good as my male colleagues, but every time this happened there always seemed to be a figure in my life that encouraged me to continue.  I had read and listened to many different opinions and studies that suggest that improved mentoring to young girls can help get and retain women in the engineering fields.  I wanted to share two interesting sources I have come across regarding the women in engineering and the importance of role models for women in engineering.

I recently listened to a Podcast called Stuff Mom Never Told You about women in engineering.  Its a really good listen and if you are interested click here for full Podcast.  The Podcast has some interesting statistics and stories about women in engineering and why it is important to have both a male and female preceptive in the engineering industry.  They also talk about the importance of role models for young women interested in engineering and how many women aren’t exposed to the various engineering disciplines until they reach college.  They referenced an interesting study that found that more female than the male engineering students were directly influenced by seeing other engineers and that many women studying also had engineers in their families.

The second source I want to share is a TedTalk by Debbie Sterling, the creator of GoldieBlox.  It is an awesome TedTalk so check it out below!  If you don’t know about GoldieBlox, they are toys for young girls to help them get interested in building and engineering.  Here is what the GoldieBox website has to say about role models.  “What we believe is so important in this space are role models — characters that are cool, interesting, smart, and relatable. We’re so glad to have organizations like Techbridge, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and the Society of Women Engineers for their work in providing role models and support for women in STEM. We hope that Goldie and her friends provide a vital way to see all the different things that girls can be, and are inspiring examples for girls and boys alike.”

I encourage you to think back about the role models who have influenced your engineering path and remember that we are now the role models for the next generation of young girls.

SWENext Program


Looking to get involved in a SWE outreach program?  Consider getting involved with the SWENext program!

SWENext is a way for girls 18 and under to become part of SWE.  The 2,500 SWENexters tend to be juniors and seniors in high school and are most interested in scholarships, meeting women engineers and engineering students.  SWE is in the process of launching a Private Facebook Group for seniors in high school to discuss issues related to success in college.   In order to have a comprehensive Facebook Group, we are looking for a collegiate SWE member from each Region to act as an ambassador on the Facebook page.

As an ambassador, you would be responsible for posting content on the SWENext Facebook page at least once a week.  You would also be required to engage and respond to conversations started by other ambassadors or SWENexters.  We are starting the page with a focus on scholarships and the college application process, but as the page grows, SWE hopes it can become a forum for many other topics.

If you are interested in being part of this growing community, please take three minutes to apply at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SWENextAmbassadorAppApplications must be in by Friday, January, 22.

Announcing the WE16 GPC-Elect: Emily Hoffman!

Hello Graduate Community! It is my pleasure to announce Emily Hoffman, the Graduate Programming Coordinator-Elect for WE16!  Emily is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University researching the nanoscale properties of metal hip implants using transmission electron microscopy. Emily has attended WE13 in Baltimore, WE14 in Los Angeles, and WE15 in Nashville. She also delivered talks at WE14 and WE15 about opportunities for engineers in policy for students and professionals. Emily will also serve as Graduate Programming Coordinator for WE17.

Welcome, Emily, to the Graduate Committee!

Do you have an idea or vision for conference sessions for graduate students at WE16? If so, stay tuned for more details regarding a teleconference regarding session planning for WE16 very soon!

Resolve to spread the word about the SWE Grad Community!

Happy 2016, Grad Community! I hope everyone has been having a relaxing (and productive?) winter break! As we begin this new year perhaps you are making resolutions or goals, so I wanted to throw the Grad Community hat into the mix. You can help us continue to increase visibility of our Grad Community! How? Well, I’m glad you asked…here are 10 ways you can spread the word about the Grad Community!

  1. Share the social media (Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) pages with your friends and/or Grad SWE groups. These are our main ways of connecting with the Community on a regular basis, and we’re always looking to expand our base.
  2. Forward the bi-weekly emails to your friends and/or Grad SWE groups. While this form of communication is less frequent, it contains important information and is delivered straight to your email inbox! Help spread the Grad Community news by forwarding these emails to other people who may not have received the email themselves.
  3. Work with your Professional and Collegiate sections to set up activities relevant to grad students. Does your collegiate section NOT have a grad group? See the Resources page of the Blog for tips on starting a grad group. Helping to plan events of interest to graduate students helps to boost grad student participation in collegiate and professional sections alike.
  4. Talk to your Region Graduate Representative about getting involved at the Region level. Your Region Grad Rep can work with you to figure out how your talents can be best used to spread the news about Grad SWE throughout your region. Find your Region Grad Rep here.
  5. Watch for the announcement to participate in planning Grad sessions and events at WE16. We will soon be requesting participation in developing and submitting abstracts for WE16 sessions relevant to graduate students – so start thinking of ideas now, and watch social media for how to participate with the Grad Community! Helping to plan WE16 sessions is a great way to spread your enthusiasm for Grad SWE!
  6. Keep your eyes peeled for the call for FY17 Graduate Coordinators. Along with the call for other committee chairs, we will be releasing a call for Graduate Coordinators soon. Applications are typically due in April, so stay tuned to social media for details! Being a Graduate Coordinator is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in graduate student lives and influence the next generation of leaders.
  7. Help develop our database of ways to contact graduate students. The FY16 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect, Liz Dreyer, is figuring out methods to better reach graduate students who are not already aware of SWE and its membership benefits. Contact Liz at grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org if you have ideas!
  8. Mentor and engage with other graduate students. Encourage them to attend Grad SWE events, become members, attend conferences, and follow us on social media! Mentoring other graduate students is a fantastic method to share your enthusiasm for Grad SWE!
  9. Attend your Region Conference, and bring a friend (or two)! You can find out when and where the region conferences are, along with links to the conference website on our calendar. The first conference is in February.
  10. Contact me if you have ANY ideas for the Grad Community! Please feel free to contact me if you have any ideas, questions, concerns, etc. You can email me (Katharine) at grad-coordinator@swe.org.

STEM Gift Buying Guides

I came across a recently published post on a blog I read about inspiring kids  in the area of STEM through toys.  With the holidays approaching fast, I thought this would be a good time to share some of the highlights of the blog post and some of the STEM gift buying guides available.

The author of the blog post, Chris Wolfe, had some good advice for those looking to buy STEM toys for the children in their lives.  The three points of guidance that Chris offers are:

  1. Align the STEM toys with the child’s general interests and follow their direction. If a little girl likes princesses, show her how she can design and build a castle with building blocks or make dresses using paper or cloth, then let her decide how to play. Maybe she’ll decide to make her princess a race car.
  2. Beware of cheap, mass-produced toys masquerading as STEM-inspired. STEM is hot, toy marketers know it and they are quick to leverage the excitement. Not every inexpensive toy is bad and some are better then others. Good STEM toys should foster imaginative thinking, engage the user in their creation, and encourage problem solving. Ready-made action figures, dolls, tea sets, buildings and vehicles have a place in children’s play and can help develop social and communication skills needed for success. Good STEM toys offer these opportunities for development as well as targeting the spatial and creative problem solving skills needed for STEM careers.
  3. To truly inspire a kid in STEM this holiday season, spend time with them on an activity that promotes STEM-thinking and talk to them about STEM. If you know a child that likes make-up, help her mix her own and show her how math and science are important parts of the process and in how the make-up looks and feels once it is applied. Or have them pick a science experiment and do it together, talking about the process.

Click here for the whole blog post by Chris Wolfe.

There is no shortage of STEM gift buying guides available nowadays but I thought I would share a couple of the favorite ones I have seen.

Purdue University has developed a great Engineering Gift Guide through their Inspire program.    They state that “research has shown many of the toys, games and books that support engineering learning are more often purchased for boys than for girls. Through the Engineering Gift Guide, the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering is raising public awareness of the many toys, games and books that promote engineering learning and are fun for both boys and girls.”

Another STEM Gift Guide I really liked was published on a website called Modern Parents Messy Kids.  This guide has a great list  broken down by different interests such as engineering or chemistry and life sciences.

Feel free to share any other great STEM gift buying guides that you know of!