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Engineering Extravaganza showcases importance of STEM exposure at a young age

Crystal Tingle hadn’t been exposed to any hands-on STEM experience until her freshman year of high school when she attended an event centered around civil engineering.

Little did she know she’d become an engineer. She is now a senior at Utah State University studying mechanical engineering and physics.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am right now if not for that,” she said.

Tingle is now an outreach committee member for the Society of Women Engineers, or SWE, at USU. The committee said they strive to introduce young students, like Tingle, to STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

SWE is a worldwide organization that focuses on the inclusion of women in the field of engineering.

“They focus on inclusion inside of the engineering field, specifically bringing up women and showcasing that women do have a place here in the STEM field,” said Daniella Rivera, the vice president of outreach.

SWE has helped Rivera find her place as a woman in a male-dominated field. Rivera has described her experience in STEM as both empowering and difficult. She said it’s empowering when she’s able to complete something hard — something most women don’t have the opportunity to do.

“It’s very empowering in the sense of like, we can all do this, you know if we really put our mind to it,” Rivera said.

However, other times it can be tough when her classmates or professors say things about women. The nature of being a minority can feel exclusive at times as well.

“It gets really hard sometimes because you feel like you’re not good enough,” Rivera said.

SWE has provided Rivera with a support system of men and women who encourage and remind her she has a place in the field of engineering.

This year, SWE held the Engineering Extravaganza Junior, an event aimed to engage kids grades 3-5 from around the valley to the STEM and engineering fields. This is the extravaganza’s second year, and the event mirrors the original Engineering Extravaganza, which solely targets high school girls.

The Extravaganza Junior took place Saturday, Nov. 13. Students from around the valley attended four workshops based on the four different departments in the USU College of Engineering: a mechanical and aerospace engineering workshop; a civil and environmental engineering workshop; a computer and electrical engineering workshop; and a biological engineering workshop.

This year, SWE focused on the practical application of engineering. They strove to teach students the ways in which engineering can impact day-to-day life.

“One thing that we really will push forward with this is to let the students know the STEM application of what they’re doing,” Rivera said.

For example, for the event’s biological engineering workshop, volunteers taught students how to unclog an artery using clay and a clear plastic tube.

“It just shows the importance of how a clogged artery prevents blood flow and how that could have negative effects on the human,” Rivera said.

The outreach committee for SWE focuses on reaching out to students in the community and showcasing a career in Engineering. The committee does this through various events such as the extravaganza and STEM workshops at local elementary schools.

These events, although usually targeted towards all genders, strive to appeal to younger girls. Tingle said the committee wants to be a resource for young girls, informing them they do have a place in the field of engineering.

In preparing for the extravaganza, members of SWE worked to spread word to the community, showcasing the importance of exposing young kids to the field of engineering.

“My role mostly has just been getting the word out there and promoting the event,” Tingle said. “Talking to parents and letting everyone know the importance of giving their kids this type of exposure.”

Engineering Extravaganza showcases importance of STEM exposure at a young age