Video and Blog by Nenetzin Rodgriguez, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16 Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering
Brooke, the third-year electrical engineering student pointed to the positive and negative wires running through the circuit board. “Can you tell me why the LED lights didn’t turn on?” she asked Jasmine, the high school senior. Jasmine peered over the ports and moved wires on the breadboard to a different alignment. After a couple of trials and errors, the LED light lit up. The engineering student had guided the high school student to solve her problem on her own.
Brooke is an ambassador in a service learning organization called Cal Poly Pomona Women in Engineering (CPP WE) to teach STEM activities for middle and high school girls. She believes early introduction of engineering will prepare female students for college-level courses and success in STEM.
CPP WE provides current female engineering students with career and internship support, engagement with faculty and alumnae, and volunteer opportunities for K-12 outreach. CPP WE is a safe space for current students to learn about the challenges and successes of being a woman in engineering.
The College of Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona aims to promote and retain female minority students in engineering. Collaborating with engineering students and the partner schools of Project Lead the Way (a provider of STEM programs in primary and secondary schools) on outreach events has made it possible for female K-12 students to work on STEM projects, which we hope will narrow the gender gap and develop more diversity in engineering.
CPP WE holds an event every year called Introduce a Girl to Engineering, where 100 middle schools girls are invited for a full day of STEM activities, a school tour, and the opportunity to work with female engineering students. Middle school students learn to problem solve and embrace difficult tasks as a learning process rather than a struggle. This reflects Cal Poly Pomona’s “learn by doing” model.
My position as the CSU STEM VISTA Student Success Coordinator/ Community Liaison at Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering allows me to engage with college and K-12 students that are marginalized and are in a socioeconomic status different from their traditionally represented counterparts. I consider all these students as opportunities to change our society’s bias on gender, race, and class. With inclusion and support, more females will flourish in engineering.