At UB Workshop for Girls, Aspiring Engineers Find Each Other

Release Date: July 16, 2008 This content is archived.


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At the Fisher-Price Cyber Engineering Workshop for Young Women at UB, Kate McGillicuddy (left) of Amherst, a student at Williamsville North, and Katie Kabacinski of Buffalo, a student at Nardin Academy, enjoy a virtual roller coaster ride.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With females accounting for between 10 and 15 percent of all U.S. engineers, high school can sometimes get lonely for young women who are interested in engineering and technology.

But that won't be the case this week when 16 tech-minded young women entering grades 10-12 attend the University at Buffalo's 2008 Fisher-Price Cyber Engineering Workshop for Young Women.

"We are always talking about how we can attract more women to this field," said Ken English, Ph.D., workshop coordinator and deputy director of NYSCEDII (the New York State Center for Engineering Design and Industrial Innovation, pronounced "nicety"). "The workshop is an opportunity for the university to reach out and recruit more women engineers."

NYSCEDII has been hosting a high school summer workshop since 2001.

The girls who attend not only benefit from working in state-of-the-art facilities at NYSCEDII and learning from UB instructors, but they also get something else that often is missing in their high schools: camaraderie with other young women with similar interests.

"One of the best things about the workshop is the collaboration that occurs among the girls," said Julie Goodwin, engineering technology teacher from Lewiston-Porter School District and an instructor with the UB workshop. "In their own schools, there may be just a couple of girls with an interest in technology, but at the workshop, they find that they all share that interest."

According to engineering educators, if the gender balance in the field is to improve, it is absolutely critical to nurture that interest in high school students.

The goal of the UB workshop is to introduce young women to state-of-the-art techniques in engineering design.

This year, the students' task is to design a virtual roller coaster. The students will develop requirements for the coaster design, take it through conceptual design, analyze it and ultimately create a virtual prototype and animation.

During a "reverse-engineering" activity led by Fisher-Price engineers, the students will take apart some of the company's best-selling products to figure out how the design of the toys' mechanical and electrical components make them work. This is the same process used by practicing engineers to investigate product designs and track down potential failures.

Students will have a chance to ride NYSCEDII's driving simulator, "riding" simulations of both racing cars and roller coasters. They also will become familiar with the computational and mechanical techniques used to control entertainment rides such as "Spider-Man" at Universal Studios.

The workshop is funded in part by Fisher-Price.

Students are attending the workshop this year from the following schools: Nardin Academy; Cleveland-Hill; Nichols School; Park School of Buffalo; Cardinal O'Hara; Lewiston-Porter; North Tonawanda; Mt. Mercy Academy; Williamsville East, Sweet Home, Springville-Griffith Institute, Williamsville North, City Honors, Clarence and Niagara-Wheatfield.

NYSCEDII was established in 2000 with support from the New York State Assembly and the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) to provide state-of-the-art techniques and expertise to help New York State industry become more competitive. The center provides basic research, education and training and industrial outreach in immersive and high-end visualization; rapid virtual prototyping; Internet-based systems for design, computer-assisted design graphics and three-dimensional modeling; real-time interactions with design and analysis simulations; visual interaction with high performance computing applications, and sensory and haptic (touch and feel) tools and interactions with virtual simulations.

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The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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