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WomEngineering Conference Introduces STEM to Girls

September 12, 2018
Group of people examine drilling simulator
Attendees of the WomEngineering Conference explore the WPX Drilling Simulator.

As Holly Beiko led the group down the hallway in the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources, a shout rose above laughter and chatter. The colorful WPX Drilling Simulator came into view, and one participant made her feelings known.
 
“This is so cool!” she exclaimed.
 
The youngster was among about 30 girls in sixth through ninth grade who attended the WomEngineering Conference on Sept. 8, hosted by the UW chapter of Society of Women Engineers. The second annual event featured workshops administered by faculty and students from the College of Engineering and Applied Science, highlighting areas of engineering. Attendees learned about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, and explored educational spaces like the Shell 3-D Visualization Laboratory and labs in the Engineering Building. Members of SWE chapter chaperoned the group throughout the day.
 
Beiko, a SWE member and senior petroleum engineering student, led the group into the drilling space and began the workshop with a question.
 
“What is the percentage of women in STEM jobs?” she asked.
 
The guess from the group, 5 percent, is met with laughter.
 
“It’s not that low. But it’s only 30 percent. So how can we increase that?” Beiko asked.
 
One way to capture to increase the number is hosting events like WomEngineering. Beiko, along with three other petroleum engineering students, led demonstrations about drilling, completions and oil and gas processes. After demonstrations of safe and practical drilling techniques, the most popular feature of the workshop was the opportunity to take the rig to failure. It was easy to see why. After the system was overloaded, the screens featured an entertaining destruction sequence, followed by peals of laughter.
 
Chemical engineering student Jacy Busboom is the SWE outreach chair, and helped organize the event.
 
“The girls really enjoyed the conference and several told me that they now know what they would like to do with their careers,” she says. “The workshops were also very cool and showed them activities that were applicable to what they can do in real life. I think the conference was very important to the girls’ view of engineering. Overall, it was a success and SWE will continue to do outreach efforts for girls in Wyoming.”
 
Beiko has been involved SWE since 2017, and was part of the first WomEngineering conference. She enjoys SWE because of the community of support and engagement and believes increasing representation of females in STEM fields is important. Her main goal was to communicate with the girls that studying and working in STEM fields shouldn’t be intimidating.
 
“This is all practical and really hands-on, and we have so many cool resources we can show off,” she says.
 
In fact, Beiko never intended to study engineering. She considered many fields, and after attending an open-house event in Canada, made the choice later in her academic career.
 
“I love to be able to introduce them to the field and open their eyes to what engineering is,” she says. “I wish I’d had this opportunity at their age. There’s just so much you can do with a STEM background.”


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