Women in Engineering Summer Program empowers high school students to pursue engineering

Sabrina Jones and Jaqueline Rojas Robles
Sabrina Jones and Jaqueline Rojas Robles

The Women in Engineering Summer Program (WIESP) empowers and encourages female high school students to pursue an education in engineering by providing technical materials, challenging projects and inspiring guest speakers to discover their capabilities.

The free four-week program, sponsored by Knowles Corporation, is under the Women in Engineering Programs office (WIEP) at UIC, organized and led by associate director Elsa Soto.

“I was never exposed to engineering in high school, so I think that it is amazing that Elsa Soto leads efforts such as WIESP,” said Jaqueline O. Rojas Robles, lead instructor for the mechanical and industrial engineering portion of WIESP and Ph.D. student studying mechanical engineering. “I think this opportunity has helped me put a lot of my future career decisions into perspective, and I am looking forward to continuing teaching in some capacity in the future.”

The students began their engineering exploration through a seven-day program of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) led by Sabrina Jones, lead instructor for the ECE portion of the WIESP program and teaching assistant for the mechanical and industrial engineering portion.

“I introduced students to different electrical components like resistors, transistors, capacitors, photocells, breadboards, jumper wires, Arduino microcontrollers, and much more,” Jones said. “My hope for them is to learn that they can truly do anything they set their minds to and overcome any obstacles.

After ECE, students then delve into a seven-day program focusing on mechanical and industrial engineering. Students had the opportunity to learn about the basics of manufacturing and product design by 3D printing their own items from the comfort of their own home.

“We built dancing paper robots using micro servos and autonomous nightlights using a photocell, and Dylan Lynch from the UIC MakerSpace made it possible to use the laser cutter on campus to bring our students’ designs to life,” Jones said.

This summer’s WIESP has been filled with many firsts. For the first time in seven years, WIESP was led entirely by female-identified UIC students and both classes were led entirely by women of color.

“I have been a part of WIESP for three years, and throughout that time I have learned to grow from failure and persevere. Sharing those vulnerable moments with the next generation of women interested in STEM is something I feel they can genuinely relate to and can help motivate them,” Jones said.

They’ve also introduced a WIESP program for transfer college students, known as WIESP 2.0, and have caught the attention of a few male-identified students who wish to join.

“For the first time ever, we had a male-identified student in the high school program and two male-identified students in the college version,” Jones said.

These students said they applied for WIESP because they want to be a part of the movement for gender equality in STEM and be an inspiration for current and future generations of allies.

“These students are very talented and way ahead of where I ever was at their age. I think in addition to giving the students great learning and networking opportunities, I hope students learn that failure is part of the learning process, but they are capable of troubleshooting through it and achieving success,” Robles said.


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