In Kids & Family

Females account for only 20 percent of engineering students.

St. Joan Antida hosts engineering fair for girls

Many girls grow up being told they can pick any career and "be" anything that want. However, so many fields – particularly the STEM fields of science, technology engineering and math – continue to be male-dominated.

To get young women inspired about these fields of study, St. Joan Antida High School partnered with the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) for the first-ever Girls In Engineering Fair that will be held at the high school, 1341 N. Cass St., on Tuesday, May 17 at 9 a.m.

"Middle School girls will get the opportunity to discover that engineering can be fun and exhilarating! Because girls are traditionally under-represented in this field, our hope is that the girls will eventually consider it as a career choice," says St. Joan Antida's Barbara Pinney.

Traditionally, women and minorities have been under-represented in STEM fields. Since 1990, according to the Society of Women Engineers, only about 20 percent of engineering students in the U.S. have been women and fewer than 10 percent have been women of color.

During the fair, more than 50 middle school girls will visit St. Joan Antida for break-out sessions that will challenge them to design their own dance platform, explore light through Jell-O and make their own ice cream for dessert using engineering principles.

High school and MSOE students will be on site assisting with the activities. Plus, women working in STEM-related fields will interact with the students and provide information about the possible future careers.

Shireen Zaineb, the seventh grade recipient of a national engineering video game contest, will serve as a guest speaker and share her successful engineering story.

St. Joan Antida High School is the only all-girls, urban Catholic high school in Wisconsin. It was founded by the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida in 1954 to offer a values-based Catholic education to young women of diverse ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. The 250 students of SJA represent more than 15 different ethnic backgrounds and matriculate from 70 middle schools throughout the greater Milwaukee area.

Since 2005, SJA has participated in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nationwide program that prepares high school students for post-secondary education and careers in engineering or allied fields. The school offers four years of engineering and currently has more than three times the number of students enrolled in engineering than last year.

Since 2009, SJA has partnered with the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) to further strengthen its STEM programs. In the 2010-11 school year, MSOE provided student mentors for classroom assistance, project help and one-on-one tutoring. In the second semester, MSOE professors will offer a math class to SJA seniors.

"Of course, the bigger picture here is the contribution women can make in the engineering field. We're hoping to give needed exposure to this subject," says Pinney.

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