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?



Happy New Year!

Happy New Year SWE Grad Community!

2016 was a great year for SWE. This infographic from SWE’s Year in Review article shows how busy the Society has been. 2016 has also been great for the SWE Grad Community. From seeing our own social media presence grow to having record numbers at the We16 Grad Student Reception, our progress is due to all of you. Stay awesome in 2017 everyone!


Grad Group Spotlight: Yale

yaleWhen did your group start?

GradSWE at Yale has existed since the summer of 2014 and led the push to get Yale SWE recognized as an official collegiate SWE section. Yale SWE’s current president, Bridget Hegarty, held an initial meeting at that time to determine if there was interest in starting a graduate SWE group. Nearly 15 people showed up, and a group of five of us formed the first eboard.

How is the group organized? i.e. how many core people are typically involved, do you have officers, how do you fit within the collegiate section, where do you get your budget (if you have one)?

Our section structure consists of an eboard of both graduate and undergraduate students that oversees two relatively independent committees–one grad and one undergrad. The grad and undergrad committees perform most of the day-to-day operations of Yale SWE. Our gradSWE committee has eight core members, including two co-directors and a number of chair positions (e.g. outreach chair, professional development chair, diversity chair, etc.). We find that this structure enables each committee member to take ownership of one or two events in their area of focus each semester, minimizing the number of group meetings required (important for busy grad students). For grad-specific events, we typically request funding on an event-by-event basis from the Graduate Student Life office and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate. For events geared towards both grads and undergrads, we allocate money in the Yale SWE budget, which is provided by the School of Engineering and Applied Science each year.

What type of events do you host? How often do you host them? How many people tend to come to these events?

We hold events across four broad categories: community building, diversity awareness, professional development, and outreach/mentoring. Through our events we seek to support female graduate students in engineering, both personally and professionally. Our events are open to the entire Yale community, but are tailored to the needs of graduate students. Our events draw anywhere from 10-20 people for our informal study breaks to 30-50 people for our larger events, such as our annual Gender Bias Workshop and Etiquette Dinner. We have an event every month during the fall, every two weeks during the spring semester, and once over the summer.

What is the one event or program of which you are most proud?

We are very proud of our yearly Gender Bias Workshop. It was one of the first major events hosted by gradSWE and is widely attended by both male and female graduate students from a variety of departments. During its first year, we invited Eva Pietri, a postdoctoral researcher in social psychology at Yale, to discuss her work combatting gender bias in STEM fields. She developed a series of entertaining situational videos designed to increase the viewer’s awareness of implicit bias. Although she has now moved on from Yale, we still show the videos each year and ask a student from her lab to moderate a discussion about implicit bias and the ways we can address it in our own lives.

What tips do you have for a newly-started grad group?


  • If you are considering starting a grad group, we suggest beginning by holding an information session to see how much interest there is in SWE at the grad level. We found that many grad students were interested in attending and helping to plan SWE events that were tailored to our specific needs.
  • Surveys can be very useful in learning what types of events grad students are looking for. This can vary over time depending on the goals and interests of your members, so make sure to send these surveys at the beginning and end of each year.
  • Initially, finding funding was challenging for us. Oftentimes, there are more funding sources available to undergraduates than to grad students. If your school allows it, we’ve found it very useful to submit a combined budget that can be used for both undergrad and grad events.


  • Collaborating with other grad student groups is helpful to increase event attendance as well as awareness of your gradSWE group. When we have events with a large number of non-engineers, we give a brief overview of our mission at the beginning of the event.
  • Getting first year students involved in the planning of events has been very useful in ensuring continuity from year to year. We have a first-year liaison on our gradSWE committee to allow first years to get involved from the beginning.

What type of outreach activities does your group organize?

K-12 STEM outreach is a large part of our grad group’s mission. Each semester we host at least one event with our largest event, a day-long Engineering Day for middle schoolers, happening each spring. Last year, this event brought 33 New Haven students to Yale’s campus, where they performed hands-on activities and built their own light-tracking robots. This year, we are expanding our outreach endeavors to high schoolers and will be hosting another engineering day, focusing on building a self-watering garden, in December. We host our outreach events in collaboration with the Yale Pathways to Science program, an initiative for students in grades 6-12 designed to promote the sciences, particularly among underrepresented groups. Pathways provides us with the resources and student population for our events, which allows us to focus on crafting innovative and challenging activities for the students. Through these events, we seek to expose students, particularly girls, to engineering and inspire them to pursue STEM further.

How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?

To learn more about gradSWE at Yale and to join our group, people can visit our website or Facebook page or email us at gradswe.yale@gmail.com.

Grad Member Spotlight: Ana Ramekar

22 Aug 2016


Ana Ramekar

MS Candidate, Aerospace Engineering, expected graduation December 2016

University of Maryland, College Park

Ana has served SWE on a local level throughout the Baltimore-Washington Section as the Workshop Host for “Transitioning from School to Industry ‘Backpacks to Briefcases'” and “Communication with Confidence”. She has been a Professional Development Committee member for the “Aspire To Lead” event and a Professional SWE Liaison to University of Maryland as well as the SWE Social Committee Co-Chair. Ana has been nominated for the SWE Emerging Engineer and has been awarded the Women in Color Award and the Region E Professional Development Event Award for the Aspire to Lead event.


What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?

Aerospace Engineering MS candidate, January 2014- December 2016



Give a brief explanation of your research.

My research topic studies protruding aerodynamic shapes and other obstacles to better understand the aircraft performance cost and drag penalty. I’m essentially performing an aerodynamic trade study of obstacles in multiple configurations using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). The results are useful to aircraft designers and planners who make decisions on where to install certain aerodynamic fairings or antennas on aircraft.


What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?

I’ve realized some of the best engineering outcomes are achieved when there are few barriers between the different disciplines on project. I want to apply the skills and knowledge learned in my degree to contribute to a multidisciplinary team and make an exceptional aircraft design. Specifically I want to make Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tools more accessible earlier in aircraft design process to other ‘non-aerospace’ engineering teams, such as mechanical, structural and systems engineering teams.


What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I cherish every moment I get to spend alone. I enjoy photography, drawing and being active. Two years ago took a plunge and enrolled in a yoga teacher training program and immediately started teaching at the campus gym when I got my certification. I taught a 7 am course and tried to help fellow students and undergraduates feel good about being dedicated to their health and setting aside time for quiet reflection. It was a very rewarding experience!


What’s a fun fact about you?

I learned to windsurf in the Gunpowder River where I live and pilot a Cessna 172 aircraft so I can attempt to intuitively understand aerodynamic forces and how they dynamically interact with lifting surfaces like sails and wings. At least that’s what I tell myself…

Grad Member Spotlight: Jordan Rutledge

8 Aug 2016

Jordan Rutledgeheadframe

MS candidate, Materials and Metallurgical Engineering, expected summer 2016

Colorado School of Mines

Jordan says she is, “lucky to be a member of the largest SWE collegiate chapter here at the Colorado School of Mines.” She says her favorite events to be involved with have been Up ‘Til Dawn to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research and Girl Scout Badge Day. Jordan has also been involved with Evening with Industry, where students get to meet and have dinner with female mentors just before Career Day on campus. During graduate school, Jordan volunteered with the Denver School of Science and Technology, a specialized STEM middle school that focuses on underprivileged students in Denver, where she was a science and math tutor and mentored several science fair projects. Jordan has also served as the Vice President for her department’s graduate women’s group, WiMMN (Women in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Materials Science, and Nuclear). This club welcomes all graduate students and focuses on a wide range of graduate life including professional development, career planning, financial planning, stress management.
Jordan has been awarded the Mary and Charles Cavanaugh Memorial Award, the H.L. Hazen Award in Process Metallurgy, the Most Outstanding Service Award Blue Key, and placed 3rd in the poster competition at the 2016 Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration Annual Conference. Congratulations, Jordan, on all your accomplishments! Keep up the great work!
What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?
I’m completing a Masters of Science in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering in the Kroll Institute for Extractive Metallurgy. I expect to finish my thesis and graduate in the summer of 2016.
Give a brief explanation of your research.
My research is on using tannins as a depressant for copper sulfide flotation applications. Copper metal is primarily produced from ore, where it is mined, crushed, put through a flotation circuit, smelted, and finally refined into pure copper. Flotation is the process where the copper is first concentrated, and it’s best described as a bubble bath for minerals. In the flotation cell the ore is introduced with chemicals and air, and is agitated. Different types of reagents (collectors, depressants, modifiers, frothers) are used to create the perfect conditions for separating copper from the rest of the minerals. With the right collector, the valuable copper minerals will become hydrophobic and cling to air bubbles going to the surface. Depressants like tannins are used to depress other minerals in the ore.
What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I will be working for Silvateam, the company that sponsored my thesis, as a technical support and sales associate.  This job will let me visit mines around the world and apply tannins to different operations. Ultimately I would like to have a teaching position at some point in my career, but for now I’m eager to learn and explore the field.
What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I grew up in Colorado and was lucky enough to start snow sports when I was young, so you’ll typically find me snowboarding all winter. I love to travel and take every opportunity to see somewhere new.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I’ve been to 5 continents and 26 countries, here’s to exploring!

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!

Opinion: Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

I don’t know about you, but I watch a lot of news, including what my husband and I fondly call the “Talking Heads” shows on Sundays. That is, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, etc. One of these shows is hosted by Fareed Zakaria, and it’s called GPS – Global Public Square. It airs on CNN Sunday mornings at 10am ET. In the past few months, he has been on all the talk shows promoting his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. What I had been hearing him say kept making me angrier and angrier, so I decided to look into his book and his argument. While I didn’t read the entire book, the Huffington Post article linked below does a great job outlining his main arguments, with quotes from Zakaria himself. This blog post serves as my reaction to some of the article/Zakaria comments.

In short, he was making me angry because all I ever heard him say in interviews was that STEM education has had its 15 minutes of fame, and the world should focus more on liberal arts education. Of course, as someone who just completed a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, this made me incredibly mad. I do a lot of STEM outreach and I constantly tell kids that a STEM career opens a lot of doors, and that you can always take Liberal Arts classes, if that is something which interests you. Plus, I disagree with his premise that the world does not need more scientists and engineers. I believe that we are in desperate need for these people more than ever, as there are world crises that require, or at least prefer, a STEM degree or experience to solve. However, after reading the Huffington Post article, I see now that he is not denying the benefit of a STEM education, but rather advocating for incorporating Liberal Arts and STEM together to allow for a broader and more comprehensive education. I completely agree with this conclusion, but I wish he would explain it better on his interviews.

Link to Huffington Post Article:

Find the book on Amazon: http://amzn.com/0393247686


And so here begins some quotes from the article and my thoughts:

A liberal arts education is the best preparation for many careers, especially in the U.S., given today’s global technology-driven economy

Actually, no, a STEM education is much better preparation for a technology-driven career. By understanding how to use and program computers, one is much better equipped to move forward in a career which is dependent upon these technological advancements. Furthermore, understanding the scientific and engineering processes is imperative for many careers. For example, the primary thing engineers are taught is problem solving – regardless of the problem. With a liberal arts education, many students do not even learn how to think through technical problems or get practice with the engineering and scientific methods. They may learn how to analyze and think critically, but they are not taught the advanced math, science, or engineering skills which are obtained through a STEM education. It is these advanced skills that are necessary to succeed in many careers.

“The future of a country like the U.S. rests on our ability to master how technology interacts with how humans live, work and play,” Zakaria said to The WorldPost. “And that depends on skills fostered by the liberal arts, such as creativity, aesthetic sensibility and social, political and psychological insight.”

STEM education fosters creativity. Insight into the world’s problems is a must for many STEM majors, since they’re the ones who are going to create (ah, there’s creativity!) methods by which to solve these problems. Engineers are also key designers for electronics, which must be aesthetic by necessity in order to be financially successful.

Because of tough economic times, the rising cost of higher education and an increasingly competitive job market, too many Americans — and American politicians — are turning away from the liberal arts under a false perception that they are a poor career option, Zakaria says.

And yet, many of the highest paid career options are STEM careers. While salary does not make the best indicator of  a career option, it indicates the value of the college degree to the employer. And when looking for a job immediately out of college, rates have shown that it is much easier to get a STEM-related job than a non-STEM job, which is incredibly useful if you have student debt. Zakaria mentions that non-STEM salaries and career prospects may reach the same salary and unemployment rate as STEM majors later in life. But as I mentioned, this does not help a soon-to-be college graduate when faced with trying to pay bills, including student debt.



Liberal arts subjects — such as English, philosophy and political science — teach people how to think, write and communicate; those skills remain useful through the many twists and turns of a career in today’s ever-changing digital economy, he argues. And, he says, it is dangerous to overemphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education as separate from or more important than the liberal arts.

STEM disciplines also teach one how to think. I will admit that I wish my engineering studies would have emphasized writing and communicating more, but these were things I could get elsewhere. In fact, my skills were strengthened through my involvement in other activities, such as giving campus tours, attending and presenting at conferences, and writing technical papers – not to mention my Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertation. I will also admit that I think STEM outreach does sometimes focus on the technical skills, and should perhaps include more arts, reading, and communication skills. With that said, I know many STEM outreach programs which are trying to encompass all these skills, with an emphasis on the engineering and scientific methods. Zakaria mentions this technique as “cross-pollination” and suggests that creativity and innovation excel when liberal arts and STEM fields are mixed during the education process.


And so, I came to the conclusion I mentioned in the second paragraph. I agree with Zakaria’s conclusion – that STEM and liberal arts need to be integrated to develop the next generation of thinkers. But I disagree with how he has been going around advertising this bottom line.


What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, I’m eager to hear other opinions on this topic!