Nineteen fifth-grade girls brought a parent to stay at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) for a weekend this summer, as part of an on-campus residential program designed to promote women in engineering.
Called “My Daughter is an Engineer,” the program brings parents, daughters and their elementary schools’ lead teachers from schools in the Long Beach and Compton unified school districts to campus for three days of engineering activities.
“Research has shown us that we can help students help themselves with their academic success, but teaching parents to become fully engaged in their children’s educational pursuits is the greatest investment of effort that any outreach program can hope for,” said Lily Gossage, engineering educational research associate for CSULB’s College of Engineering. “Obviously, having parents who support their children’s education makes the greatest difference. Social stigmas discourage girls from considering engineering even though they’re often well prepared, but we can show them that engineering is quite a lucrative and awesome career for women.”
Statistics show that only about 20 percent of engineering students are women and that women make up only about 10 percent of professional engineers.
“The idea of reaching out to students at the earliest age possible, before they are subjected to peer pressure in the later years, is also supported by research,” Gossage added. “Another factor is the way math is taught in many schools; we can help young girls overcome the negative mindset about math by showing them the practical uses of math.”
The fifth-grade girls were selected on a competitive basis from six Long Beach Unified and two Compton Unified schools that have been identified as having high-minority student enrollment and serving low-income families.
Those selected for the program this year were Aylin Alfaro, Edison Elementary; Emily Anguiano, Roosevelt Elementary; Alexa Ara, Patrick Henry; Angela Contreras, International Elementary; Emily Galindo, Fremont Elementary; Eden Guerra,Chavez Elementary; Paola Ibarra, Roosevelt Elementary; Maria Juarez, Edison Elementary; Tsunami Keeton, Bunche Elementary; Evelyn Lopez, International Elementary; Kayli Ochoa, Chavez Elementary; Samantha Parra, Roosevelt Elementary; Jhoana Perez, Edison Elementary; Tanya Pichardo, Edison Elementary; Griselda Salinas, Roosevelt Elementary; Kiara “Coco” Sanabria, Fremont Elementary; Delyn Tom, International Elementary; and Myra Trahan, Bunche Elementary.
In just its second year of operation, “My Daughter is an Engineer” was originally conceived as a mother-daughter program, but for the first time, there will be a father taking part in the program.
Activities during the three days included engineering-based workshops on robotics and control technology in everyday life, academic career preparation and skills learning, and an engineering-relevant fieldtrip to the Columbia Memorial Space Center. The program showcases engineering applications and the impact of engineering on daily life as well as provides information to support ongoing parental involvement.
While teachers were co-engaged in the program activities along with the parents and daughters, teachers also had additional projects-based workshops that incorporate four NASA directorates. Teachers were trained to weave NASA content into existing K-12 curriculum.
Gossage said this unique program incorporates engineering outreach for parents and daughters and at the same time blends common program components to serve the professional development of school teachers.
CSULB has a long-standing commitment to promoting under-represented minority students and women in sciences and engineering. Another recent program, “Engineering Girls @ the Beach,” was an off-shoot of its highly successful “Women Engineers @ the Beach” program. The “My Daughter is an Engineer” is a first-ever program established specifically to serve a parent-daughter-K-12 educator population.
Funding of $10,000 was provided by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity, and $10,000 was provided by the California Space Grant Association. Support is also provided by the Columbia Memorial Space Center.
The program was hosted by the CSULB Women-in-Engineering Outreach leadership team, including Professors Bei Lu and Panadda Marayong and Lily Gossage as co-investigators.