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Our world needs more engineers

A Concordia student association is seeking to diversify the historically male-dominated field
March 5, 2014
By Laurence Miall

Lysa Wolfe explains key concepts to a group from Montreal’s Roslyn School
Lysa Wolfe, an engineering student at Concordia, explains key concepts to a group from Montreal’s Roslyn School. | Photo courtesy of Francesca Di Paolo

Women currently represent less than 18 per cent of engineering undergraduate students in Canada, but one Concordia student group is working hard to change that.

“My dream is to help every girl and woman become what she wants to be,” says Francesca Di Paolo, a civil engineering undergraduate and vice-president of outreach for the student group Women in Engineering (WIE). “Doing this brings me hope for the future.”

WIE takes a hands-on approach to its mission. Because drawing more women to engineering means piquing their interest at a young age, its members run eight-week programs at Montreal’s Roslyn School for elementary-school groups that are at least 50 per cent female.

In the workshops, which are now in their second year, Concordia students explain concepts as advanced as thermodynamics, kinetic energy and tensile versus compressional forces by way of age-appropriate building projects: model roller coasters, parachutes, bridges and so on.

“We show them the fun part of engineering,” says Di Paolo.

WIE members also visit local CEGEPs and high schools to share their love of engineering and to encourage girls to study the subject — especially at Concordia.

A definition is always a good place to start. “The simplest way to explain it is to show how it’s connected to everything you see around you — a telephone, a notepad, even shoes,” says Di Paolo. “All of these things are engineered.”

One of the student association’s major focuses this year will also be fundraising for Logifem, a Montreal women’s shelter. The goal is to raise $1,000 to provide clothing, non-perishable food items and hygiene products.

WIE’s members have also volunteered to teach the women at the shelter to use computer programs like Microsoft Office and Photoshop.

“We’re a small society, but we’ve done so much already,” says Di Paolo. “I’m very proud.”

Learn more about Women in Engineering.

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