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Inspiring Girls in Engineering and Technology

June 02, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up? When posed this age-old question a young girl may answer 'painter', 'dancer' or 'famous rock star'. However, the recent Young Women for STEM- Knoch Middle School Recognition Night set out to prove to girls that answers such as 'engineer' or 'scientist' are just as appealing.

The event was held at Butler County Community College and recognized sixth and seventh grade Knoch Middle School girls for their exemplary work in the areas of math, science and computer technology. Co-sponsored by the South Butler School District, the Female Alliance for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Excellence, the American Association of University Women, the Penn State Electro-Optics Center and BC3, the Recognition Night drew a panel of impressive women to speak to a group of 28 girls.

These women, including industrial engineer and president of South Butler School Board, Nelda Burd and industrial engineer at Curtiss Wright EMD, Stephanie Thompson, spoke about their experiences in hopes that they might inspire girls to pursue a career in STEM. Among the panelists were recent INI students Hanan Hibshi and Ashley Keith, both graduates of the Master of Science in Information Security Technology Management program. Natalie Bennett, a current INI student in the Master of Science in Information Technology – Information Security program, also attended. The three students are members of the student organization, Women@INI.

The event's panel spoke about the positive aspects of their career paths and what they do on a daily basis. Their collective goal was to serve as experienced role models so that this group of bright, upcoming girls could see what their futures might entail.

On top of the fulfillment gained by serving as a role model for the younger girls, Keith stated she was glad that, "some of them realized that they can go into math and science fields without becoming that 'geeky girl with glasses.'"

When reflecting about her experience with the Young Women for STEM- Knoch Middle School Recognition Night, Hibshi also gave a positive response. "I think that we also had some effect on the parents themselves; they might now encourage their girls to explore new options and career paths."

While being a painter, dancer or famous rock star are all admirable careers, women role models must continue to come forward and inform our younger generations about the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The INI at Carnegie Mellon University provides students with exciting opportunities in these areas and is proud of its growing number of women in recent years. When speaking of the INI student involvement in the Young Women for STEM event, perhaps Director of the INI, Dena Haritos Tsamitis says it best by stating, "Yes, these are truly the meaningful things that we can do."