2023 Girls Engineering Day
The 8th Annual Girls’ Engineering Day (GED) was hosted by Women’s Transportation Seminar’s Orange County (WTS-OC) Chapter, in partnership with Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) at Dale Junior High School on February 25, 2023, the last day of National Engineering Week. Despite a little wind and rainy conditions, a total of 83 female junior high and high students across 23 schools (18 schools within AUHSD) gathered at GED and were introduced to five transportation fields: structures, environmental, geotechnical, highway, and survey. 16 AUHSD teachers and 55 WTS-OC volunteers facilitated the event, organizing the sessions and moderating hands-on activities for the students to learn “on-the-job” skills widely applied in the transportation field.
“It impresses me each year seeing how smoothly the event runs with the WTS women from various companies coming together to make this event happen,” said AUHSD’s Science Curriculum Specialist – TOSA, Jessica Yett. “This event allows our students to hear about many pathways to careers, different careers relating to transportation, and forms of engineering that perhaps they had not considered before. It is a beautiful opportunity for our students to engage in and demonstrate the 5 Cs, or soft skills: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Character/Compassion.”
After the welcome remarks from Rafael Santiago (Principal of Dale Junior High) and Karen Chapman (President of WTS-OC), the students began their day with an icebreaker team-building structural activity using shapes created from flashcards. By mixing the students from different schools to form 22 teams consisting of 4-5 students each, they learned how to engage with one another to problem solve as a team.
Cherie Eifler, WTS-OC Committee Member and Business Development Manager at Diaz Yourman & Associates enjoyed being the Emcee and made an introduction about the origin of GED to the students and teachers. “I want to participate in GED every year. This program has given me so much joy and is probably the most rewarding volunteer activity I have ever done.”
Following the icebreaker, the students rotated throughout their technical sessions to engage in hands-on activities. Volunteers mentored the students through instruction, presentation, activity support, and answering questions, highlighting the importance of all aspects of STEM.
In between their morning and afternoon sessions, the girls were welcomed by keynote speaker, Jaimee Bourgeois, Director of Public Works & Transportation at the City of Irvine, who gave an inspiring speech about her journey through the transportation industry and answered the energetic group’s questions during the mentoring session.
Birgitta Ongawan, WTS-OC Committee Member and Transportation Engineer from Jacobs, loved her first experience volunteering at GED, saying, “It is important for me to volunteer for this event as this event allows the girls to see that girls can be engineers and that there are female professionals in the industry that they can look up to and who are willing to provide mentorship to help them achieve their goals.”
During the closing session, the Top 3 performing teams during the earlier icebreaker session were selected to receive awards. The student participants were allotted time to then share about their experience of the GED event. All participating students received a certificate of completion to further commemorate their experience.
“The girls’ comments at the end really touched me, especially the girl who said she didn’t really know anything about transportation and civil engineering and as a result of her day, she wanted to pursue a career in our field,” said Eifler proudly.
100% of the students participating in the post-event survey said this year’s GED met their expectations. A student from Katella High School noted, “I had so much fun today because I had the chance to meet successful women in this industry and it made me realize that I could do everything, in a good way.”
The mission of the WTS Transportation YOU Program is to develop the next generation of the transportation industry by growing the involvement and interest of girls and young women in STEM studies and more. “We appreciate the long time partnership with AUHSD to continue this great learning opportunities for our students,” said WTS-OC Transportation YOU Chair and Principal at Fehr & Peers, Anna Luo. “I am proud of our amazing GED Committee members and volunteers for their devotion and contribution to this program, and when we read the feedback from the student surveys, it is very rewarding!”