Posted on Jul 27, 2004

19 area girls spend two weeks on campus with faculty, engineers

An innovative summer camp designed to interest girls in careers in engineering is running this year from July 18-30 at Union College with 19 area high school students.

During the two-week EDGE Program (Educating Girls for Engineering), participants will work with professors on a number of engineering-related projects. The major project has to do with re-engineering toys and electronic devices to be used by severely disabled children. At the start of the camp, the girls visited patients at Schenectady's Northwoods at Hilltop brain injury rehabilitation center to see first-hand the daily challenges disabled children face.

Girls were chosen for the program through a rigorous application process. Northrop Grumman Corporation is the program's sponsor. Karen Williams, associate professor of biology, is directing the program.

In addition to the engineering projects, participants receive instruction on communication and public speaking to assist in the presentation of their ideas. They also participate in off-campus trips to engineering firms, a luncheon at the dean's house and a dinner with practicing women engineers from the area.

“Recognizing that diversity is defined, appropriately, in many ways by gender, geography or ethnicity, the EDGE program welcomes girls from across the Capital Region to experience real engineering and to enjoy what life at college offers,” said Union College President Roger Hull.

“We focused on something they could embrace immediately,” said Robert Balmer, dean of engineering and computer science, of the idea to aim the program at helping disabled children. “Certainly, I think that for girls of this age and children in need there is a natural affinity.”

Women constitute 51 percent of the U.S. population and 46 percent of the U.S. labor force. However, among recent graduates (1990 and later), women represent only 8 to 9 percent of the engineering labor force. While women constitute a high percentage of some science occupations — more than half of all psychologists (63 percent) and sociologists (55 percent) are women — their participation in physics and engineering remains small.