Engineering targets women

Twenty-four high school students are this week sampling what a career in engineering might be like as part of a UNSW program aimed at attracting more women into the field. 

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Camp-goers set about building a leg brace as part of an engineering design challenge.

Twenty-four high school students are this week sampling what a career in engineering might be like as part of a UNSW program aimed at attracting more young women into the field. 

Hosted by the Faculty of Engineering, year 11 and 12 students from across Australia are living on campus and participating in lectures and workshops that focus on the Faculty’s key research areas of energy, health, infrastructure, manufacturing, digital services and natural resources.

In its second year, the five-day Women in Engineering Camp (WIEC) is an important step towards meeting the Faculty’s goal of boosting female enrolments to 25 per cent by 2020.

Throughout the week, the students will be working in teams on an engineering design challenge to build a leg brace while receiving mentorship from current engineering students who will be acting as ‘houseparents’.

The students will experience engineering in action with trips to Qantas, the ABC studios and the Sydney Theatre Company, and a climb of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They will also meet with Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales, and NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane as part of a careers opportunities panel. 



Sarah Hayes, a fourth-year Commerce/Environmental Engineering student and WIEC head houseparent, says the program shows young girls that engineering is not necessarily a “boys’ domain”.

“There is a perception that girls have to be at the top of the cohort to go into engineering, but the camp shows how broad the field actually is. It showcases the technical side, all the way to policy and economics,” she says.

Year 12 students Nivaas Sehmbhi and Brie Hammersley say they are enjoying the camp, particularly the workshops that showed them how a bionic eye and arm work.  

“I’m a hands-on person, so I was so intrigued by how we could perceive what blind people were seeing,” says Brie, from Willoughby Girls’ High School.

“I like maths and physics, so the camp is the perfect opportunity for me to work on these areas and find out what course I want to do at university.”

Nivaas, who is studying at Cerdon College in Merrylands, agrees: “Coming to the camp has given me an insight into the different areas of engineering and has changed my understanding of what the field is about. Engineering branches into, and connects with so many different areas, like science and physics.”

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Professor Graham Davies says that while the number of female engineers at UNSW is higher than the national average of 16 per cent, it remains a Faculty priority to see this number rise.

“Engineering remains a predominantly male-dominated discipline, and the Women in Engineering Camp is one of several steps we are taking to encourage young girls into the field and offer them a taste of what they could be studying.”    

“We hope the camp will inspire these young women to think of a career in engineering as an achievable and exciting option,” he says.

The Women in Engineering Camp runs between 13-17 January.

Media contact: Cassie Chorn, UNSW Media Office, 9385 8107, c.chorn@unsw.edu.au