2022 Girls' Engineering Day
After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) and the Women in Transportation Seminar’s Orange County (WTS-OC) Chapter partnered again to host their Girls’ Engineering Day Event (GED).
Returning to the campus where it all began seven years ago, 61 female junior high students across 10 schools within AUHSD gathered at Dale Junior High on February 26 to be introduced to five transportation fields: structures, environmental, geotechnical, highway, and survey. Navigating the students through their day were 51 WTS-OC Volunteers who organized presentations and hands-on activities for the students to learn “on-the-job” skills used in the volunteers’ day-to-day responsibilities.
“What really stood out to me this year is the pride in how smoothly this event comes together with so many professionals that come from different industries,” said AUHSD’s Science Curriculum Specialist – TOSA, Jessica Yett. “This event brought students from each of our junior high school sites and strategically mixed them up within the day's activities. The girls…come together to engage in the day’s activities and are all smiles by the end.”
The girls began their day with an ice breaker team-building structural activity. Using shapes created from flashcards, each group receives the same set of materials to construct a structure that can stand up and support “loads” without collapsing. By mixing the students up so they’re working with students from neighboring schools, they learn how to engage with one another to problem solve – building both their academic and social skills.
Jennifer Chan, PE, WTS-OC Girls’ Engineering Day Committee Member and Project Manager at Mott MacDonald, enjoyed seeing the girls trying to solve problems in their very own creative ways in the ice breaker/technical sessions and asking the challenging questions. “The collaboration they showed with other girls in the group that they probably met for the first time [was impactful].”
The student interaction was encouraged throughout the day as the girls rotated throughout their technical sessions – both amongst one another and with the WTS-OC Volunteers. Volunteers mentor the students through instruction, presentation, mentoring, activity support, and answering questions, highlighting the importance of all aspects of STEM.
“[We] let them know engineering is more than just math,” Chan said. “It has a wide spectrum of specialized fields.”
In addition, each technical session included a college-careers presentation from a WTS-OC Scholarship Alumni, who spoke to the students about four topics: “What I Wish I Knew: From a High School Senior,” “COVID-19 and Californians’ Projected Travel Mode Change,” “Why and Where Do I Go to College?,” and “Internships.”
“To encourage the girls to think/explore the transportation world, and see them achieve their goal coming to GED is to fulfill the mission of WTS Transportation You Committee,” said WTS-OC Transportation YOU Chair and Senior Associate with Fehr & Peers, Anna Luo. “[It’s important] to offer young girls an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers.”
In between their morning and afternoon sessions, the girls were welcomed by keynote speaker, Valarie McFall, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Transportation Corridor Agencies, who took the time to share her journey through the transportation industry and answer the energetic group’s questions.
“I was impressed by the number of questions for [Valarie],” Yett said. “This is always such a celebratory positive event, but this year in particular I am proud that we were able to offer the opportunity for our students.”
As the day concluded, students received a certificate of completion to further commemorate their experience.
Despite the break in 2021, the support from WTS-OC members and AUHSD faculty (18 of whom volunteered at the event) truly made for another successful in-person GED. Returning to Dale Junior High’s newly reopened and renovated campus and using the beautiful new facilities also served as a reminder at how far the GED Program has come. Both AUHSD and WTS-OC look forward to continuing hosting this event for many years to come.
“I personally love the end of the event where we ask students to tell us what they learned,” said WTS-OC Appointments Chair and Southwest Area Manager/Project Manager at T.Y. Lin, Karen Chapman, PE. “When they say they enjoyed [the day] – it’s so rewarding!”