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Women in Engineering conference looks to inspire girls’ interest in STEM

MAR. 7: High school students get the chance to sample coding, build satellite stations and more
March 6, 2020

Take a coding workshop with a Google employee. Or learn about supply chain from an expert at Deloitte.

In honour of International Women’s Day, the Concordia chapter of Women in Engineering (WIE) is holding the second WIE Inspire WIE Empower conference the day before, on March 7.

The gathering is exclusively for high school girls considering studying environmental, mechanical, software, chemical or any of the engineering specialties in the field. The free event, capped at 100 students, filled up in one week, but there is a waiting list.

“We’re excited to expose girls to different types of engineering,” says Riya Dutta, president of WIE, which is housed in the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“If we can inspire even one girl to become interested in something she didn’t know she liked, that’s success. We want them to work in the labs, meet role models and do workshops I wish I’d had the chance to do when I was younger. Last year, one of the parents told me their daughter discovered she loved coding and she’d never considered it before.”

Interactive workshops: From coding to aerospace

This year’s keynote speakers are Gina (Parvaneh Baktash) Cody (MEng 81, PhD 89), the namesake of Concordia’s engineering and computer science school, and Sandra Gwozdz, member of the board for the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec. The event also features interactive workshops throughout the day.

The roster of activities plunges students into coding, supply chain practice, building projects, satellite station construction and more.

Companies Google, Deloitte and Kiewit, as well as the student-run organization Space Concordia, will run these hands-on, interactive workshops.

University sponsors include the Gina Cody School and the Concordia University Alumni Association.

Les Scientifines

WIE Inspire WIE Empower 2020 comes on the heels of another Gina Cody School female-focused event — this time, one proposed to the school by a local non-profit, Les Scientifines.

On March 2, 50 students from grade four to six attended lab tours and participated in a robotics workshop. Students created prototypes of robots that clean the ocean of plastic litter.

“We were happy to partner with Les Scientifines,” says Amanda Clarke, advisor of strategic initiatives and special projects at the Gina Cody School.

“It’s important for us to engage with the broader Montreal community and to introduce children from underprivileged neighbourhoods to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts. It’s also important to make the activities scalable by familiarizing teachers with the tools and methods used.”

The primary demonstrator at the workshop was Carole El Ayoubi, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering (MIAE), who was assisted by Ghassan Maraouch, an MIAE graduate student, and undergraduate Anaïs Gagnon.

“The girls were so capable and motivated,” El Ayoubi says. She began the session by delivering a presentation on robots created by her colleague Lyes Kadem, professor and curriculum director in the MIAE.

“The girls attacked the robot kits enthusiastically and were so proud to show us their working prototypes. They were really good at working in groups and that’s an important attribute to have if you’re an engineer. The hands-on nature of the workshop only encouraged their interest in STEM.”

‘A lasting impact’

Inspired by the positive reaction from the girls, El Ayoubi, Kadem and Clarke’s goal is to work with local schools and non-profits to offer more workshops in robotics and coding to children from underprivileged backgrounds.

“We hope that this will allow young female students to envision themselves studying and working in STEM fields and to realize their huge potential for making a lasting impact on our world,” Clarke says.

“Through workshops and consultation on activities and methods with local science teachers, we hope to develop a sustainable program that shows that everyone has a place in STEM.”

Learn more about the
Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Women in Engineering Career Launch Experience, an internship offered through the Institute for Co-operative Education.



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