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Educational Outreach Nugget

Using motors to encourage high school women to
pursue careers in engineering

Two young women proudly  show off their motor.

Two young women proudly
show off their motor.

The Women’s Technology Program (WTP) is a four-week residential summer program forfemale high school juniors from around the country that was created to address the underrepresentation of women in engineering. Research indicates that some young women avoid careers in engineering due to a lack of confidence. Additional barriers include a shortage of role models, lack of direct experience, and negative stereotypes of women in engineering. WTP offers participants an opportunity to work with supportive faculty, as well as female graduate students and undergraduates to enhance their math and science background, while gaining confidence in their ability to succeed. Professor Steven Leeb of the MIT MRSEC created and teaches a design-and-build class in which the WTP students learn about the physics of the motor and how design decisions are made to accommodate specific performance criteria. After four days in the machine shop, the young women reported that the motor building was the most memorable and exciting part of the program. Many indicated that this was their first experience with power tools. Most expressed satisfaction and excitement about learning theory, applying it to create a design, and then seeing the design actually work. One alumni wrote that this program gave her the confidence to apply to top tier colleges and universities, which she had not been planning on prior to her WTP experience. Parting comments from the students include positive reflection on the motor class in particular, including the following statement, “This class made me want to do engineering… it made me realize engineering is fun and interactive.” This program is a collaborative effort between the MIT MRSEC and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

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