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Girls Day 2021

A small blog about our experience during Girls’ Day on April 15th 2021!

Some months ago, me and my colleagues from the University of Twente (UT), Mumpy Das (PETER ESR3) and Daria Nemashkalo (SCENT ESR9, https://www.scent-itn.org/) received an interesting email from our supervisor. Ιn the email, there was some information with a link to VHTO (https://www.vhto.nl/english/activities-and-projects/girlsday/).

VHTO is a Dutch national expert organization on girls/women and science/technology, which has been building up knowledge about the participation of girls and women in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and experience in deploying this knowledge in areas such as education [1]. As stated in their website:
“During Girlsday, technical companies, (non-)governmental organizations, and research institutes open their doors for 10-15 year old girls, in order to awaken/increase their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”

First, we were kind of confused about the event.. “How does this work? Should we arrange something for this event?” we asked our supervisor naively. The answer was yes! We should come up with a session that would last for approximately an hour, where we shall familiarize girls in the ages of 10 to 15 with STEM, and more particularly our area, Electrical Engineering. Immediately, we started coming up with many ideas. Videos, photos, experiments, etc. Two schools were interested in our session. More specifically, the Greijdanus Christelijke Middelbare School in Zwolle and the Dr. Nassau College in Beilen.

We also knew that the event would take place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore we had some limitations. However, we all agreed on something… It should be as interactive as possible! We might not have been able to meet these girls in person but at least we should make it as fun as possible including them into the experience! Therefore, we decided on creating a presentation where we could give the girls a small taste of Electrical Engineering and an inside peek of our world.

As we weren’t aware of how much they know about Electrical Engineering, we thought of asking them some simple questions first. Therefore we created a document (Fig.1) with some questions and gave it to them some days before the event…

  • Have you ever heard of Electrical Engineering?
  • Do you know what Electrical Engineers do?
  • Can you think of anything in your house/classroom/(somewhere else?) that might have to do with Electrical Engineering?
  • How many professions can an Electrical Engineer do?

Fig. 1. The flyer we gave the girls before the event

So, on April 15th at 11.00, a bit nervous, we went online with many girls waiting in their classrooms for us to recite our stories and experiences. In our interactive presentation, we discussed with the girls the questions above along with explaining to them what an Electrical Engineer is and what the opportunities are for someone following such a career path. We also included a part about some very interesting historical events as well as a part about women in science. We concluded our presentation with a small “tour” of our laboratories and our university through pictures and videos, showing them also some of the topics we are working on currently and things we have done in the past.

The presentation was mostly structured as an open discussion and therefore we were asked some very interesting questions throughout it as for example ”Why were there mostly men [question during historical events]?” and “Are there any women at the university?”. What stroke me the most is how little the girls actually knew about Electrical Engineering. In our very first question if they have ever heard of the term “Electrical Engineering” before, we got mostly the answer “No, we don’t know what this is about” and “I never heard this before”.

Fig. 2a. Example slide of our presentation during Girls’ Day

Fig. 2b. Example slide of our presentation during Girls’ Day

These answers gave us even more motivation to show them all possibilities. Through our session we tried to explain what Electrical Engineering is and that it is actually all around us. From our mobile phones to our laptops to our cars to the space structures that orbit the earth. We tried to show them the countless professional opportunities that they will have following such a career. Additionally, we told them our own personal stories and experiences as well as why we chose this profession and on what we are working on right now. Moreover, through a small historical flashback, we showed them how the idea of electricity begun and the men and women that have been particularly important in science throughout the years. Finally, we asked them about their interest in science and what they would like to do in the future. By the end of our presentation, we surprised the girls with some gifts we arranged with the help of the UT staff. In more detail, we gave them a mystery box with presents from the UT, a voucher for the Oyfo Techniek Museum in Hengelo, the Netherlands [2] and finally a solar panel kit, where the girls had the opportunity of building it by themselves.

Overall, it was a very exciting experience and also it was very interesting to see the interaction between us and the girls. Even though the session took place virtually, I think we were able to put them at least for an hour in our world. Personally, the girls have given me motivation to keep doing such sessions as they were also very enthusiastic about it! For sure, if I have the chance to do it again and in person this time, I have many ideas already stored!

I hope that with our small session, we were able to give them a small peek into all the opportunities they have and also into how fun and how important it is for women to work in scientific and technological areas. They should know that nothing should be able to stop them from accomplishing their dreams and goals and we hope that we showed them at least a small part of what awaits these powerful future women!

References

[1] VHTO [Online]. Available: https://www.vhto.nl/english/about-vhto/
[2] Oyfo Techniek Museum [Online]. Available: https://www.oyfo.nl/Techniekmuseum

 

About the Author: Vasso Gkatsi


Vasso Gkatsi received her M.Sc. degree of Electrical and Computer Engineering from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2020. She also performed an internship at THALES in Hengelo, the Netherlands, where she concentrated on Shielding Effectiveness measurements using the dual VIRC.