SWE Introduces Girls to Engineering

Engineering Girls @ the Beach 009
Alumni Jennifer Didlo, president of AES Southland, talks to girls about engineering.

Nearly 150 girls from neighborhood elementary and middle schools heard about engineering as a career and participated in workshops during Engineering Girls @ the Beach Friday.

The event, sponsored by the CSULB chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, in addition to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Southern California Edison, is intended to introduce girls early on to the advantages of studying engineering.

“We need women in engineering,” said College of Engineering Associate Dean Tracy Maples. “Women can bring a different perspective. A lot of things women are doing in engineering is fantastic.”

SWE President Alexis Ortega agreed. “We are in great need of innovation and invention, said Ortega, an MAE major. She told the girls that her interest in airplanes was sparked by watching Discovery Channel documentaries with her father and taking a ride in an airplane when she was 6.

Speaker Jennifer Didlo, president of power-generation provider AES Southland, asked the girls what qualities engineers needed. The answers she got were: hard work, math and science ability, and bravery. Didlo told the girls they would also need confidence—and the ability to do things they don’t like—such as working on homework instead of something more fun.

“You might look around and be the only girl in your math and science class,” Didlo said. “You need to believe in yourselves. If you ever feel it’s getting hard and you’re not sure it’s worth it, lean in,” she added, echoing the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”

Didlo leads business development effort for AES Southland redevelopment projects, directing the engineering design, environmental and regulatory approvals and the commercial plan to replace the existing generating units at AES Alamitos, AES Redondo Beach, and AES Huntington Beach. Prior to her current role, she was president and plant manager of AES Deepwater in Houston, Texas, a 140MW petroleum coke-fired generation facility and AES’ first operating plant.

“We’re counting on you to make this world a better place,” Didlo said.

After Didlo’s speech, the girls had a chance to participate in a number of faculty-led workshops on topics such as autonomous vehicles, viscosity, robotics, batteries, and chemical reactions—making batteries from lemons, lava lamps from oil, food coloring, and antacid, robots from Lego blocks, and goo from corn starch and ketchup.