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Society of Women Engineers Chapter Hosts 51st Annual Career Day for Girls

Around 60 Chicago-area middle school and high school students visited campus as part of the February 26 event

Career Day

On Saturday, February 26, the Northwestern undergraduate student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (NU SWE) hosted Career Day for Girls. The 51st annual event welcomed around 60 students from nearby schools to explore the theme “Engineering Your Team!”

Held in-person after being staged virtually in 2021, the program was designed for female junior high and high school students, but open to students of any gender identity who are interested in science and mathematics. Career Day for Girls is NU SWE’s largest on-campus outreach event, hosting students from the Chicagoland area for hands-on engineering activities and competitions. The program included education and career information about opportunities in engineering and applied science.

The program was divided into separate paths for the middle school students and the high school students. Both age groups went on lab tours, and participants were able to talk casually with current undergraduate engineering students before visiting labs in the chemical and biological engineering, materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering departments. Graduate students in each lab led hands-on demos and taught students about lab equipment. 

This year’s keynote was delivered to high schoolers by Beverly Ahoni (BME ’03), a practicing pediatrician who provided a perspective from a non-traditional engineering career, giving students a glimpse of the variety of things they can do with an engineering degree. The high schoolers also listened to a panel of six professional engineers who graduated from different universities. They described a typical day, their experiences in male-dominated spaces, and answered student questions.

Middle schoolers took part in a catapult design challenge in which they had to build a working catapult with a handful of household items, and were judged by their creations’ maximum distance and accuracy. In another activity, the middle schoolers were tasked with building bridges out of pasta, with the goal being to assemble a structure that could hold the most weight.

Career Day for Girls has been held annually since 1970 when only 4 percent of Northwestern Engineering students were women. Today, approximately one third of engineering undergraduate students identify as women.

With more than 300 members, NU SWE has a strong and growing presence on campus. Centered on three fundamental pillars – outreach, professional development, and social development – the group’s mission is to build a supportive community of female engineers at Northwestern and beyond.

The Society of Women Engineers is a nationally recognized professional, educational, and service organization dedicated to supporting women in science and engineering. They aim not only to empower their members to fulfill their full potential as engineers and leaders, but also to inspire the next generation of engineers through STEM outreach programs.