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Dayton Engineer

Women in Engineering Summer Camp Marks 45 Adventurous Years!

By Karen Updyke, School of Engineering

Throughout its 45-year history, WIE has operated a weeklong, overnight summer camp for high school women on the UD campus with the purpose of giving them a glimpse into the rewarding careers of engineering professionals.

At camp, the women engage in experiential learning through ‘Experiments in Engineering’ and ‘Innovation Modules’ and enjoy real-world interactions with practicing engineers at ‘Dinner with an Engineer’ and a ‘Day with Industry.’ Each thought-provoking segment highlights engineering from a new perspective for the campers.

At this year’s ‘Dinner with an Engineer’ and 45th anniversary celebration, the women shared a meal with 36 practicing engineers. Three of them were previous camp counselors and 12 were previous campers from the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.

Carol M. Shaw, who is a UD professor emeritus and the founder of the WIE Summer Camp, graciously returned as the keynote speaker for the ‘Dinner with an Engineer.’ Shaw taught at UD for 40 years in the engineering technology and engineering management programs. She also served as associate dean and developed educational programs that addressed diversity issues, including WIE, one of the first and longest running women engineering programs in the country.

According to Shaw, “In 1973, there were four female engineering students enrolled at the School of Engineering, and WIE was created to help raise the number.” She continued, “The WIE hands-on lab activities were conceived to ensure that the women understood the exciting career possibilities available to them as engineers.”

“When an opportunity knocks,” Shaw counseled the campers, “open the door and go through, discover the possibilities, take a chance and step through the door.” Shaw disclosed that she walked through numerous doors of opportunity — and the positive outweighed the negative.

Other dinner guests were practicing engineers who did an exceptional job of giving pointers and talking about their experiences – they made it personal. Two guest engineers revealed that they remembered Shaw when she visited their high school to discuss the first WIE summer camp in 1973, which they attended. 

The guests shared a variety of stories and articulated their engineering passion — helping others through biomechanical developments, encouraging and mentoring other women in the profession, and their often life-altering, global responsibilities — were a few. 

At the end of the evening, Laura Bistrek, Diversity in Engineering director and camp coordinator expressed, “It is always great to have women engineers, at all levels in their careers, who support and inspire our students with their stories. They showcase the versatility of how many directions an engineering degree can take you.”

School of Engineering Dean Eddy Rojas attended the celebration as well and reiterated the need to encourage women to enter the engineering field. Because of the work started by Carol Shaw and continuously supported by others, the School’s female population has increased from 1973, when it was less than one percent women, to today’s 24 percent. But still not satisfied, Dean Rojas explained that his goal is to reach 50 percent and said, “We have made strides since the four female students in 1973, but we still have work to do and hope that the upcoming students and summer camp participants will help us move closer to our goal.”

This year’s successful WIE Summer Camp was supported by numerous industries and community leaders as well as the UD School of Engineering faculty and staff. Attending were 66 high school students from 11 states: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, and one student from another country — Peru.

At UD, we globally support and spread the ‘women in engineering’ conversation!

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