Women in the SolidWorks Community Reflect on their Start in Engineering

Stories Prove Importance of ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’

CONCORD, Mass., USA, Feb. 24, 2011 – What do the circular saw, Liquid Paper, the COBOL programming language, square-bottom paper bags, the dishwasher, the windshield wiper, and strong-as-steel Kevlar have in common? Women were integral in the invention or improvements of each of these.


That’s worth honoring today—Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Sponsored by the National Engineering Week Foundation to spotlight engineering as a career opportunity for women, this day dovetails with Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.’s efforts to make SolidWorks® software accessible to girls and women everywhere.


Ann Wettersten has been introducing girls to engineering for two years. She’s the leader of the Space Cookies, an all-girl FIRST Robotics team (and Girl Scout Troop) open to any high school girl in Silicon Valley.


“Our motto is ‘Girls Engineering Tomorrow,’ ” says Wettersten, who has a mechanical engineering background herself. “This is about empowering girls and providing the opportunity to experience real-world engineering in a fun and challenging environment. We want to inspire girls to apply the science and math they are learning in school to creatively solve complex problems. This is the future generation of female technology leaders.”


The Space Cookies, who are sponsored by the NASA Robotics Alliance Project and co-sponsored by DS SolidWorks, do everything it takes to make and launch a competitive robot, including CAD, electrical work, and software programming. “In addition to technical knowledge,” says Wettersten, “they’re learning leadership, team-building, time management and, through our industry partnerships, a wide range of career paths.”


Christine Longwell is a manufacturing process engineer at Proterra, maker of zero-emission commercial transit solutions. She began exploring her passion in college and hasn’t looked back. “For the most part engineers are focused on creating and building things to solve problems,” says Longwell, a SolidWorks user. “There are few jobs that offer the ability to see such tangible and rewarding results of your efforts. To this day, I love to look at cars that I helped bring to market and say, ‘Hey, I worked on that.’ "


“A lot of people think I came from a family where my father taught me to work on cars, but really the opposite was true,” she says. “I didn't understand how an engine worked until I went to college, but I found a welcoming community there that happily taught me enough to graduate and become a powertrain design engineer. I work on my own cars, and I take a lot of satisfaction out of it. On the other hand, I am also Mom to a six-year-old boy who proudly tells anyone who will listen that "My mom is an engineer and she can fix anything!"


Read Christine Longwell’s blog here: www.longwellweb.com


Anna Wood is a design engineer for Auer Precision, a leading global provider of engineered process solutions for the life sciences, medical, microfluidics, semiconductor, defense, automotive, and industrial markets.


“I have always been fascinated with how things are made and how they work,” says Wood. “My curiosity led me to pursue a career in engineering. Engineers have a front row seat in creating designs for products and structures that we use every day. It is very cool to design a device or a tool from a blank piece of paper and watching it being manufactured. To be able to hold it in your hand, drive or fly in it, ride over that bridge you had a part in designing, or have a hand in creating a lifesaving device is immensely satisfying.


“I would encourage all young women to pursue a career in engineering,” she continues. “The opportunities are boundless, and the emotional paycheck for doing good work is very rewarding.”


Read Anna Wood’s blog here: www.solidmuse.com


Marie Planchard, DS SolidWorks’ director of world education markets, was introduced to engineering as soon as she was old enough to pitch in. “My father owned an auto repair garage and my grandfather owned a farm, so between the two you were always fixing stuff. It didn’t matter that you were a girl,” says Planchard, a teacher, author, and engineer. “I had Barbie dolls, but I was the kind of girl who tried to figure out how the joints worked or how they stamped Mattel into the plastic.”


As with Longwell, Wood, and the Space Cookies, Planchard’s gender hasn’t held her back. She was one of only three women in her Rutgers University mechanical engineering class of 205, and she was president of its American Society of Mechanical Engineering chapter. It wasn’t a case of affirmative action. “My father always told me that with education, I could do anything,” she says. “He was right.”


In line with old-school gender expectations, however, Planchard does note she is in a “helping” profession: “I help people by giving them great products or helping them create great products of their own.”


Her advice to girls:

  • When in doubt take more math.
  • Know that you can do it (because you can).
  • And as Apollo 13 Commander Capt. James Lovell Jr. said at SolidWorks World, success is the only option.


Read the SolidWorks Teacher blog here: blogs.solidworks.com/teacher/


Fact: Eighteen percent of undergrad engineering degrees went to women in 2009, according to the American Society for Engineering Education. Undergraduate female enrollment in engineering ticked slightly higher for the second straight year, rising to 18.2 percent in fall 2009 from 17.5 percent in 2007. 

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