Middle Pages Editor/Staff Reporter
25 March 2019
According to the Society of Women Engineers, thirteen percent of the engineering workforce is composed of women. Twenty-six percent of computer scientists are women. Female engineers earn statistically ten percent less than their male counterparts. Sixty-one percent of women report having to prove themselves over and over again to receive the same respect and recognition as their colleagues. One hundred percent of female engineers agree that being an engineer takes courage, strength, intelligence, and most importantly, a passion for engineering.
Atholton’s Student Women Engineering Club, more commonly referred to by members as SWE, is primarily for female students who share that passion for building, designing, and working with a variety of people and tools. “[SWE] provides a community for girls who want to go into engineering,” said Jean Fregeau, the Technology Education teacher who sponsors and directs SWE. “Because it is a male-dominated field and sometimes, in their classes, they do not have many women. In SWE, they can just enjoy the company of women while doing what they like.”
SWE spends all year working on mini projects and building challenges, but their big event is the annual Rube Goldberg machine competition, which was held this past March. A Rube Goldberg machine performs a simple task, but in a complex and ridiculously complicated process, using common household objects to set off chain reactions. Their task: to drop a penny into a piggy bank.
“The best part is that going into this, I didn’t have any engineering background,” said Alyssa Barker, a freshman at Atholton and a student woman engineer herself. “I didn’t know how to tighten this or screw that on. But throughout this really cool process, designing the Rube Goldberg, I can look at it and feel like I helped to design it. [SWE] taught me how to do it.”
“In our Rube Goldberg machine, there is a lot of problem solving and ‘why isn’t this working?’” Amanda Chin said, a freshman in SWE. “Right now, we’re trying to figure out why the penny isn’t going into the piggy bank. I think that really helps. It uses the engineering design process.”
One of the best parts about SWE is that it is “low-commitment” and even students with busy schedules can find a way to make SWE a part of their routine.
“It’s really chill and relaxed,” said Chin. “You can come in whenever. We all have different activities, and you can fit it around your schedule. It’s really nice that it is not very strict.”
“I remember, for the orientation, I saw the poster for SWE to sign up but I was hesitant to join because I do a lot of sports,” Barker said. “So I didn’t think that I would have enough time. The person who was in charge of the SWE board told me to just sign up and you can always just not do it. So, I think for the women who are thinking of doing it, they should take a chance because I love it, I love coming, and working with everyone. We’re like a family.”
Fellow SWE member, Katie Hessler, said much the same. “It’s really cool to meet other people with similar interest as you, and to be able to work together and create something really cool.”
“I think the biggest thing we do is let them know that they can be themselves in that field and that there is a community there. It might be smaller than the male community, but there is a community there,” Ms. Fregeau added. “The big thing is leadership skills. We don’t have a president, vice president, but we have an executive board. We always have seniors, juniors, and sophomores on it. As far as developing leadership skills, you will usually see that seniors have the most. Students who participate for a number of years always develop more leadership skills. We also like to use shop tools. All of our students, not just girls, do not have those things at home. I think that is something that gives a lot of people confidence when they know how to do those things.”
Emma Szympruch, a junior at Atholton and and one of SWE’s oldest members, said, “SWE is great because if you want to learn how to use power tools, and you feel like you have never done that before, you get to learn a lot of little different skills like that along the way. [Students] should definitely do it. It’s not a huge commitment. If you are in it, you don’t have to come a lot if you don’t want to. I feel like we always do really fun things.”
On March 2nd, the Student Women Engineers, nicknamed the “Rowdy Raiders,” won first place in the Rube Goldberg Regional Competition and both the Spirit and Team awards. Their farm-themed Rube Goldberg machine landed them as 2019’s regional winners. Congratulations to SWE and all of its members!
Running on the high of the last few weeks, SWE still has more to come. On March 18th, the club will be holding a College Women in Engineering Round Table event. Students will be able to talk to former Atholton students about their experiences as college women majoring in engineering. All students are welcome at the event.
“It’s a pretty cool group of people, and you get to do whatever you want,” Szympruch said about SWE. “Anyone can join if they want to. As long as they’re interested in engineering. It’s really fun. You should join.”