Women in Engineering Summer Program in Austria — A few weeks ago, my colleague Susan Campbell and I were guest presenters for the “International Summer Academy in Engineering for Women 2015” at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria (UASUA). The Academy is a two week program for young women to explore engineering and applied science through hands-on projects, lecture, workshops, laboratory exercises and field trips. The 19 young women attending came from China, Taiwan, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Poland, and many other countries including our student, Jennifer from the Waterfront Campus of NSCC. Some were first year university students while others had already completed degrees in engineering and were planning graduate studies. Needless to say, it was a room of engaged, motivated and intelligent young people that will change the world.
Our workshop was on sustainability with a focus on building sustainability. A bonus for me was the opportunity to work with Susan on this project. Even though we are in the same department we do not work together because we teach in different programs. I believe many fine things happen at the college when we have the opportunity to “cross pollinate”. Susan and I identified a senior technical project analyzing the performance of our geothermal system at the Waterfront that students from different disciplines can work on collaboratively. Also, I will take the lessons that she and the women attending the Academy taught me about sustainability, team building, and using “Prezi” forward with me in my teaching. This experience has reinforced my belief that many people are concerned about sustainability and bringing more attention to the issue will only aid to motivate and invigorate my students and me.
The faculty at UASUA were excellent hosts. They took us on a tour of their facilities which includes large metal 3-D plotters, robotics laboratories, manufacturing shops, and traditional laboratories. Recently, UASUA developed a science center that may be used free of charge by children and adults in the community who want to learn about science. In the physics area, the faculty who designed the center have developed hands-on activities that can be used to teach physics principals from a most basic level of understanding to a graduate level where the learner would develop the math to accompany the physical phenomena. As is the case in Canada, there is a universal need for technical knowledge and more access to science especially for children.
During their time at the Academy, the young woman were required to complete a project. It was an inductive approach where they were to research, brain storm, and use information from lectures to come up with an invention, idea or innovation. The concept for the project is excellent. The engineering profession has difficulty attracting and retaining women. Often women are more attracted to the “helping professions”. Engineering has been poorly promoted because engineers do help. It is our job to improve how we do things and to fix many of the problems we face in our day-to-day lives. The project at the Academy was presented in a manner that appeals to people who want a fresh look at how we engage in our practise. With a focus on mobility, sustainability, energy and frugality, the project had something to appeal to everyone and it especially addressed issues that interest women. Susan and I were present during the first week only of the academy so we did not see the finished projects. I am looking forward to speaking with our student, Jennifer to learn how it turned out and to discuss how we might use the project idea in our engineering technology programs.
Faculty, Mechanical Engineering Technology
NSCC Waterfront Campus