Newsroom

Excerpt:
The following is from the July 10, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News.


Girls get up-close look at engineering

By RACHEL SLADE
The Dallas Morning News

Pairs of teenage girls hunched over desks in a classroom at Southern Methodist University on Wednesday using bowls, copper wire, paper, magnets and tape to build speakers.

"We're creating female, young MacGyvers here," said Michael Paulk, a spokesman for the SMU engineering department.

The rising high school juniors and seniors from the Dallas-Fort Worth area have spent the week immersed in the university's summer engineering camp for girls.

"I gave them electromagnetism in three minutes or less," said Don Ruggles, who teaches middle school and high school students in Missouri City, Texas, and works with SMU's Infinity Project to produce engineering curriculum.

The camp, in its sixth year and growing, exposes girls entering eighth through 12th grades to engineering. It is one of several SMU outreach programs to help close the profession's gender gap.

While engineering programs across the nation average only 19 percent female enrollment, SMU boasts numbers near 32 percent and has a goal of reaching gender parity by 2010, Mr. Paulk said.

"Unfortunately society has told young ladies for years that they wouldn't be good in science careers," Mr. Ruggles said. "And that's changing, but not fast enough."

Several of the campers have already decided on science careers.

Elizabeth Hanacik, 17, a rising senior at Plano Senior High School, said people are often surprised to hear math is her favorite subject.

"Society has formed this mold of women," the aspiring aerospace engineer said. "It's all still left over from the '50s."

For Mikaela Dulan, 16, a rising junior at North Garland High School, math runs in the family– on her dad's side.

"I've never heard a girl say she wants to be an engineer," said Mikaela, who is still deciding between the electrical and biomedical fields. "I'd recommend this camp for anyone that's even thinking about engineering. I didn't know there were so many types."

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