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Girls Engineering Day 2019

More than 100 girls attended the fifth annual Girls' Engineering Day, which helps introduce junior high school and high school girls to the transportation industry.

Eighty volunteers who work in the transportation industry helped introduce more than 100 female middle school and high school students to transportation at WTS-OC’s fifth annual Girls’ Engineering Day at South Junior High School in Anaheim on Feb. 23.

The girls were welcomed by a special guest speaker, State Senator Ling Ling Chang, who represents California’s 29th Senate District, which covers the counties of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino. She shared with the girls how her interest in STEM subjects began with computers.

“In middle school, I was obsessed with computers. My mom would worry as a girl I was too obsessed with computers, so she would place a password, and I found a way around the password. I had a knack for technology, and she got smart,” Senator Chang said. “Because she didn’t want me to go onto the computer, because she knew I was breaking into it, she removed the keyboard so I couldn’t get onto it.”

Senator Chang continues to advocate for STEM-related programs for young women today, encouraging the girls to look into an App Challenge via her website that will take place during Women and Girls in STEM Week in April.

“I really want to encourage you all to pursue STEM careers, because it is incredibly important, especially in terms of transportation,” Senator Chang said. “Everything you see out there’s an aspect of transportation, goods movement, people movement, everything revolves around transportation. The work you will all be doing should you choose this path is incredibly important.”

Students from 19 schools were in attendance, representing five school districts. Before jumping into station rotations highlighting highway, transit, environmental, geotechnical and survey engineering, the girls were divided between schools, grades, and districts to tackle a structural engineering activity. The team-building activity involved creating two different bridge structures out of straws to see how much “load” of juice boxes each bridge could hold.

As the girls began their station rotations, industry volunteers fostered mentor-mentee interactions, while continuing to encourage team building among the students themselves. Each station began with an introduction to the respective transportation field, followed by a hands-on activity related to the field.

Karen Gomar, a junior at Los Amigos High School, found her knowledge of transportation increased after participating in the event’s transit station.

“It was pretty interesting how everything combines to make something work for the public and how it all contributes to society and the environment,” Gomar said.

Transportation industry volunteers, firms and agencies not only assist in organizing and sponsoring the event, but also dedicate their time to provide instruction for the girls and offer to share their experiences with their education and career. The hope is to inspire these young girls to find interest within STEM programs and cultivate the next generation of leaders in transportation.

“Beyond having now educated over 500 girls in six different transportation planning and engineering subjects, we’ve created a cycle as well,” said WTS-OC Transportation YOU Chair and T.Y. LIN International Branch Manager Karen Chapman. “From our program, we’ve had two girls receive scholarships from WTS-OC and are going to college to pursue transportation-related degrees in the fall. These two students are currently seniors and (both attended) this year as well.”

Jamie Chang, one of these recent high school winners who is currently a senior at Oxford Academy, joined other former WTS-OC Scholarship Alumni in presenting about college and careers. Each station rotation featured a presentation covering the areas of college applications, scholarship applications, two-year college programs, internships and the road to licensure.

Each year, the support from both the transportation industry and Anaheim Union High School District grows stronger.

“It’s amazing with the collaboration with all the teachers on campus, with our principal helping out,” said South Junior High Science Teacher and Girls’ Engineering Day Committee Member Linh Ho. “We had science teachers on hand who helped out with the event. It was a team effort and it was such an amazing experience for our girls, because we got to bring more girls this year than any other year.”

Girls’ Engineering Day Co-Founder and Dale Junior High Science Department Chair Phyllis Fukumoto said one of the most rewarding parts of her day was the bus ride back to school.

 “My students were singing, because they had enjoyed the day so much,” she said. “While we were waiting for their parents to pick them up, several of them were talking about how much they learned about transportation.”

Read more about the event on the Orange County Breeze and Mass Transit websites!