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“Now I know it’s not just for boys”, 100 girls introduced to engineering at Collins Aerospace

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- Think you have what it takes to be a software or security engineer? 100 Cedar Rapids Middle School girls got to experience what it was like to program a drone and build a mechanical arm.

It's all part of Collin Aerospace's Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Associate Director of Program Manager, Jade Groen said it can be a very impactful experience for the girls that attend.

"When we have done survey's 60% of girls have said they're not interested in going into engineering as a field," said Groen.

In 2010 only 28% percent of engineers or scientists in the workforce were female, according to the National Science Foundation.

Jennie Rickels, an 8th-grade science teacher at Oakridge Middle School brought five of her students along to get excited about STEM.

"When they get to middle school a lot of the girls decide they're not as smart as the boys when it comes to science or math or some of the more creative fields that they could use their abilities," said Rickels.

Rickels believe giving the girls, who range in age from 11 to 13 exposure to STEM fields young gives them more confidence to try it and can make all the difference.

"When they get to see this, they say, oh I can do this," said Rickels.

In fact, of the two girls interviewed by KWWL one of them, 8th grader Devasena Manikandan at Oakridge said she already had big dreams of being an engineer.

"Because my uncle is a civil engineer and my parents are like tech engineers," said Manikandan.

However, for students who had not had the same experience or exposure to the field the idea of becoming an engineer was harder to imagine.

At the start of the program, Collins Aerospace took a survey of the students. 62% of girls said they would not or were not sure if they would consider a career in engineering.

Roosevelt Middle School student, Alliance Nyiramatuzo was one of those students.

When asked if she had ever considered doing something like engineering before today, Nyiranmatuzo said, "No, No."

However, after students like Nyiramatuzo got to put their hands and minds to work the opportunities began to blossom.

"I think it's pretty cool. Now I know that it's not just for boys. Girls can do it too," said Nyiranmatuzo.

By the end of the program, Collins' re-surveyed the group and 90% of the students said they were more likely to consider a career in engineering.

That's exactly the type of inspiration Congresswoman, Abby Finkenauer, who joined in and spoke to the students, hoped the experience would provide.

"It matters a lot to me because I grew up here in Iowa. I saw a lot of my friends move away and are wanting to come back for job opportunities. What they're doing right here at Collins Aerospace is showing girls, right now that you could have a future in Iowa where you can work in engineering and make a big change and be apart of something really special," said Finkenauer

From building motors out of batteries to building circuits and programming drones the girls in attendance got to see what could be on their horizon.

"I got to see what other types there were and it's cool," Manikandan.

This is Collins Aerospace's 19th year hosting Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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