Breaking Barriers: My experience at the UNH Girls Technology Day

The STEM field, especially engineering and computer science, has been historically populated by men. This is caused by years of stereotyping and while the percentage of women in the field is slowly increasing, the ratio of men to women in the workforce is still severely unbalanced. Today, only about 20 percent of STEM jobs are occupied by women. To help combat this and spark interest in technology-based careers, the NH Department of Education, in partnership with the NH Community College System, decided to create the Girls Technology Day in 2013. Over the years, the Girls Technology Day grew into multiple days hosted at different college institutions to allow more girls around New Hampshire to become  involved.

This year, at the UNH Girls Technology Day, I helped run an activity as a volunteer with UNH InterOperability Lab, where I’ve worked for almost a year now. As a freshman Electrical Engineering major, I have seen and experienced the disproportional ratio of men to women in the field already, both in school and at work. I really want to help female students become more interested in the STEM field and the Girls Technology Day is especially meaningful to me. Not too long ago, I was in their shoes. I participated in the Girls Technology Day with my high school two years ago and that experience still sticks with me to this day.

For our activity, we chose to build circuit bracelets. Not terribly difficult, but still fun and we were able to use it to teach the students the basics to circuits, such as  current, voltage and polarity of circuit elements. Additionally, the basis of the project was loose enough that it really allowed the students to be creative with their design, as creativity is something that is crucial to a lot of STEM fields, especially engineering and computer science.

It also wasn’t just about the activity. As I am an only a freshman, I know only too well how they are feeling. Being able to talk and interact with these students was an experience. I know first hand the feeling of uncertainty with the looming wall of college coming up. The feeling of not knowing exactly what you want to do or that you won’t actually make it through high school, let alone college. I was ecstatic that I able to share my experience of deciding on a college major and give advice on certain things that I wish I knew when I was applying to colleges or when I was in high school.

Sadly, after our second group, we were done for the day. Yet, I stayed to wander. I wanted to see how or if the Girls Technology Day had changed since the two years I participated in it. With a slice of pizza in hand, I wandered through the vendor fair, weaving through students and getting mistaken as a student myself. I was amazed how everything had advanced, comparing the technology available from my freshman year of high school to now. How in this day and age, something like a 3-D printer is becoming more and more common, going from something that was huge, chunky and took hours if not days to print to something that you could just buy in store or even build yourself.

Overall, I had an enjoyable time at the UNH Girls Technology Day, both helping out and exploring myself. As I left Kingsbury Hall, I left with a smile on my face, even after threading who knows how many needles with conductive thread, knowing that I may have helped someone become more interested in the STEM field or helped someone decide what they want to do in the future.