Plastic soda bottles, paper towel tubes, cardboard boxes and packaging foam are not materials ordinarily associated with engineering. While most Penn State students savor the remainder of summer break, women engineering students will integrate these recycled materials with traditional components such as gears, wheels and pulleys to create a vehicle capable of traveling more than seven feet.
About 95 first-year students are taking part in the Women in Engineering Program Orientation, an introduction to engineering and college life, held Aug. 18-20, at the University Park campus. Known as WEPO, the program features a sneak-peak at Penn State engineering through activities such as the vehicle design project, computer seminars, scavenger hunts and picnics.
Today, women are underrepresented at all levels of engineering, making up only 9 percent of the workforce. This shortage comes at a time when the number of U.S. high technology jobs has grown to 4.4 million. The Women in Engineering Program, sponsored by the college and several corporations as well as the Equal Opportunity Planning Commission, was created to offer support and information for women engineering students. Women make up almost 20 percent of the University Park enrollment in the College of Engineering, an increase of 4 percent since 1992.
WEP provides these students with hands-on workshops, career development and peer and professional mentoring opportunities with women in the field.
"Students see other women in engineering who are making it," said Shani Allison, a past WEPO participant and now a WEPO mentor. "It gives them encouragement."
In addition, WEPO provides first-year participants with an upper-level student mentor. For more information on the program, contact Barbara Bogue, director, Women in Engineering Program at email@example.com.
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