Introduce a Girl to Engineering exposes young minds to the possibilities in engineering

  • Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2024, 2:05 pm

Introduce a Girl to Engineering
It was another captivating year for middle‑ and high‑school‑aged girls at Pantex and Y‑12’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering.

Annie P. is only an eighth-grader at Panhandle (Texas) Junior High, but as she participated in Pantex’s annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering event last month in Amarillo, she was already thinking big.

“We get to learn about science and engineering and how it helps the world and how we can help the world, too,” Annie said.

Annie was one of more than 900 girls that participated in Introduce a Girl to Engineering events at the partner sites of Pantex and Y-12 on February 22. In all, girls from 63 schools filled the lobby of Y-12’s New Hope Center and the event area of AmTech High School in Amarillo to engage with staff, visit booths, and broaden their understanding of the possibilities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

This year marked the 11th IGTE event at Y-12 and the seventh at Pantex. Each event showcases Consolidated Nuclear Security’s (CNS) commitment to supporting and educating the communities around the sites.

“I didn’t realize how many different fields there are, and it was cool getting to talk to other people who went through the college experience,” said Emily C., a sophomore at Sweetwater (Tenn.) High School.

Emily said she enjoyed learning about the different engineering disciplines available to her. Educating girls like Annie and Emily about opportunities in STEM career fields is the goal of these events.

NNSA Production Office Manager Teresa Robbins shared her energy and enthusiasm for STEM fields with the next generation.

“We need the best and brightest to continue our national security mission,” Robbins said. “I hope many of these ladies come and work in the Nuclear Security Enterprise in the next 10 years. I would love to see one of them work through their career and replace me someday.”

Students started their day at Y-12 in an engaging panel discussion with four women engineers sharing their experiences led by Julie C. Students asked thoughtful questions about what to expect in college, career, and life. Following the panel, students interacted with booth participants showcasing a wide range of STEM career disciplines and experienced engineering principles in action with activities like building marshmallow launchers.

Meanwhile at Pantex, junior high and high school girls visited interactive STEM booths, run by women, to encourage them to get more interested in STEM career fields.

Marina Y. said “the hands-on activities can teach girls creative and problem-solving skills and help maintain their interest in STEM areas to build the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Stefanie C. worked with her team to help girls build catapults and had a competition to see who could build a foil boat that held the most pennies.

“I wish this type of event was around when I was young,” Stefanie said. “There are more women in STEM careers now, and it is so encouraging to see the interest these young girls have in learning more about it. The hope is that we can inspire even just a few girls to pursue a STEM career and show them what they can do with it and how to keep going.”

According to Pew Research Center data, fewer women are graduating and working in STEM fields than their male counterparts, despite the potential to earn more than in traditionally female-dominated fields. Though they make up half of the workforce, only 26% of individuals currently working in STEM fields are women, making events like this incredibly important for the future of young women.

“Events like this help CNS and our local communities in bold ways,” Mission Engineering Vice President Tony Boser said. “It allows us to invest into eighth grade and high school students and introduce them to possible career paths. It also gives our folks the chance to give back. Our volunteers are passionate about showing how engineering can be fun and how it makes a difference in the things we do every day.”

CNS is the Managing and Operating contractor for the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, TX and Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN.