Week-long Camp Inspires Young Women to Pursue Engineering Degrees

Engineer Like a Girl is a one-week, summer program with a simple goal — inspiration for the next generation of female engineers.

College of Southern Maryland Pre-engineering Coodinator Shadei Jones conceived of the program three years ago and is now seeing the fruit of the program’s impact. At least three of these young women who participated in Engineer Like a Girl — Edelen Harless, 19, of California; Nicole Hedspeth, 19, of Lexington Park; and Ma’lani Wilson, 18, of Waldorf —are now pursuing an engineering degree at CSM.

Jones’ idea was that high school-aged female students would benefit from early exposure to the many career opportunities in the high-demand field of engineering. In addition, a program like Engineer Like a Girl could prepare those same students as they faced subtle and not-so-subtle pushback that can occur when entering a male-dominated field like engineering.

“As a female engineer, it was important for me to make sure young ladies always know how capable they are and to know that the field of engineering needs their contributions,” Jones said.

Both Harless and Hedspeth participated in the 2015 camp, and Wilson attended the 2016 camp.

“Some of the highlights of the program were getting a tour of Pax River, listening to other women in the STEM career field that had either gone to CSM engineering or worked at Pax River,” Harless said of her camp memories.

“My key takeaway was that engineering wasn’t going to be easy; however, it was an exciting career filled with many possibilities and absolutely something that I wanted to do and was worth the hard work.” Harless started pursing a degree in electrical engineering at CSM in spring 2017 and hopes to one day work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Hedspeth recalls her week at Engineer Like a Girl in 2015. “I remember being told not to get discouraged while pursuing a career that was male-dominated,” Hedspeth said.

“I really enjoyed meeting other girls interested in engineering as well as participating in activities that represent engineering, such as building a tower out of marshmallows and toothpicks or a cell phone detector.” Hedspeth just finished her first semester at CSM, where she is studying mechanical engineering.

Like Harless, the trip to Pax River to meet and talk to women engineers was a highlight of Wilson’s Engineer Like a Girl week. “It was fun and I was able to learn new things and meet new people and the woman who worked there,” Wilson said, adding that her current career goal is to be an engineer in the Navy.

Wilson has some advice for young women considering the engineering field. “Follow what you love,” she said. “Women are in engineering, but it’s not many. You are a strong young girl. You have to stand your ground and be who you are.”

Wilson has completed her first semester at CSM, where she is majoring in mechanical engineering. “I love it,” she said.

“The best part of this work is when the young ladies tell me that the program had changed their life or the summer program is the reason why they are attending CSM to pursue engineering,” Jones said. “Then I know that we are doing more than hitting the mark, we are creating the next generation of female science, technology, engineering and math leaders, and that is the type of impact I was aiming for.”

Apply Now for Engineer Like A Girl Programs at La Plata, Leonardtown Campuses

In its fourth year, Engineer Like a Girl will be offered at both the La Plata and Leonardtown campuses this summer. The program includes workshops, hands-on activities and projects in a range of engineering disciplines. In addition, a day visit to NAVAIR to meet with female engineers in the field is included in the camp program.

Engineer Like a Girl will be offered 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., July 24-28 at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Aug. 6-10 at the La Plata Campus.

Applications are being accepted for both of these programs and must be received by April 20. Space is limited, and students will be notified by May 18 if they have been accepted to camp or placed on a waiting list. There is a $50 registration fee to hold your spot. This fee will be waived with demonstrated financial need.

For information on CSM’s Engineer Like a Girl program, call 301-934-7747 or visit http://stem.csmd.edu/EngineerLikeaGirl.html.