Photo by Pawel Konopka

Students from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and their peers from every area of UIC’s College of Engineering hosted Mom, Me, and SWE on Nov.12 at UIC. The Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) event is an outreach program for fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade female students and their parents with the goal to expose young female students to engineering with hands on activities and to encourage the students to start thinking about engineering as a viable career path.

More than 30 students and parents participated in the free event, which focused on Electrical and Computer Engineering. ECE students Stephanie Sagun, of Park Forest, Ill., and Megan Dague, of Fox Lake, Ill, provided an overview about the department and worked with the guests as they built circuit boards.

“SWE is really important to me. It’s the first student organization I got connected with and they made me feel really welcome. I’ve been able to grow as a person and engineer with all the girls in engineering,” said Dague. “We will teach [the guests] a little bit of electrical engineering and get them into the basics. Hopefully, through the circuit boards they get to take home today, they will really enjoy electrical engineering.”

The event also included a computer science overview, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich activity, which was geared toward introducing basic computer science concepts and demonstrate the importance of thoroughness through programming. The day concluded with supportive remarks from guest speakers Anu Khera, of IBM Cloud Storage, and Anne Johlie, of Mobilitie, and lunch with SWE members.

“She’s coding at [Jerling Junior High School] and that has really peaked her interest,” said Teresa Jimenez, of Orland Park, Ill., who attended the event with her 11-year-old daughter Sophia. “She said ‘this is fun and I like it.’ So when this program came about, we thought we can attend and see all the other areas of engineering offered. I think it’s a great opportunity for the young kids to be out and experiencing new things and learn about new areas. It’s great that they have this program so young women can know that they too can be part of the engineering world.”

SWE is a support group for all engineering students at UIC. Mom, Me, and SWE is one of the many events the student organization hosts throughout the academic year to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to younger students.

“Through our Mom, Me, and SWE events, we invite female elementary school students and their parents to visit our campus to partake in fun engineering projects,” said Elsa Soto, Associate Director for UIC’s Women in Engineering Programs. “This is a great way to introduce young girls to engineering and strengthen the College of Engineering’s relationship with local schools.”

Apart from conducting outreach events for elementary school students, the SWE members have access to many different resources including scholarships and the opportunity to attend national and regional conferences. At these conferences, students are able to network with other future engineers and attend career fairs to find internships and full-time employment.

The student organization focuses on academic and professional development so our fellow students feel prepared for graduate school and the workforce.

“I think SWE is important for women. For me, it has been a really great way to find opportunities. I got an internship by going to their conference, and in general I think it’s a really great networking opportunity,” said Sagun. “I’m in Electrical Engineering and there are very few women in that field in particular, and it’s nice when I can meet someone in my major and make new friends.”

“If you go into [electrical and computer engineering], the future is in your hands, and that’s something you should be proud of and something you should be excited about,” she added.

The next Mom, Me, and SWE is scheduled for April 2017. Learn more about SWE and their events at their website.

Learn more about UIC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at their website.

By David Staudacher, UIC

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