The mission of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is to “Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.” Founded in 1950, SWE has been working for more than six decades to empower and assist women and girls in engineering and technology related disciplines through professional development, K-12 outreach, and community service.
Open to women and men and both undergraduate and graduate students, the Portland State University collegiate section of SWE provides a wonderful opportunity for PSU students to develop leadership skills, engage in civic activities, and network with other SWE members from collegiate and professional chapters from around the country.
An extremely active chapter, the PSU SWE collegiate section was awarded the “Top Achiever Award” at the SWE Western Regions Joint Conference. The group meets every month during the academic year in the Student Services Connection room in the Engineering Building (EB 421). Melinda Holtzman, Senior Instructor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, serves as the group’s faculty advisor.
In addition to providing students with opportunities for professional development, the PSU SWE section engages actively in K-12 outreach. Members are currently collaborating with Sharon Wood Wortman, commonly known as “the Bridge Lady” and author of The Portland Bridge Book, on bridge building curriculum for elementary school students in Portland and Vancouver.
Wortman is writing a book called, The Big and Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver, which will be given to third graders in the Portland Public School District and fourth graders in Vancouver as part of the students’ social studies curriculum. The books will be accompanied by Wortman’s “Bridge in a Box” activity, which provides a hands-on opportunity for students to construct and load-test bridges made from wooden craft sticks. In addition to contributing engineering expertise to Wortman’s book, PSU SWE members will be training teachers on the bridge building curriculum and volunteering in the classroom to assist with bridge building and load testing.
PSU SWE members also regularly serve as K-12 classroom presenters during February National Engineers Month (NEM). As NEM classroom presenters, PSU SWE members raise students’ awareness about the opportunities and rewards associated with working in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) related fields. Current PSU SWE President, Nicole Zimmerman, says of her experience as a NEM volunteer, “It was really exciting to broaden kids’ horizons and to talk about things kids don’t get to talk about at home.” Inspiring the next generation of engineering students is one of the most rewarding aspects of participating in the PSU SWE section.
For the most up-to-date information on the PSU SWE collegiate chapter, including upcoming meetings and opportunities to get involved, please visit the group’s website: sites.google.com/site/swepsu/home, or contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.