Cal Poly engineering students hosted middle schoolers for the bi-annual Building an Engineer Day on May 16. Run by the Cal Poly chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the event is a way to get young students interested in pursuing engineering careers. During the day, SWE members taught students engineering principles through activities that included rocket competitions, programming simple robots, and building working stethoscopes and hydraulic arms.
Gina Fahnestock, middle school outreach chair for SWE, sees the event as a way to encourage young students to experience a different side of math and science.
“Normally at their age, they’ve heard of engineering but aren’t really sure what it is,” she said. “This event is a chance for the middle schoolers to talk to students, instead of teachers, and have those everyday role models to look up to.”
Rebecca Kandell, vice president of community outreach for SWE, believes the event provides just as many opportunities for growth to current engineering majors as it does to the budding pre-collegiate engineers.
“Cal Poly students get to impart the knowledge they’ve learned in class and share their passion for engineering,” Kandell said.
SWE hosts a variety of events throughout the school year designed to introduce students of every age to science and math. These include Girl Scout Day, Fourth Grade Day, and Society of Women Engineers Expressing Engineering to Youngsters (SWE-EETY) for high school students. In addition to these events, the society offers ongoing elementary school tutoring in science and math.
By involving themselves in inspiring others, the women of SWE renew their passion for their own studies. “The kids’ curiosity to learn inspired me and restored my faith in engineering,” Fahnestock said. “Our classes are challenging, but every time I do this event, I get to see how much they love engineering. It touches my heart.”