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Developing the Next Generation of Women Engineers through Tech Trek

Monday, 18 February 2019

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SAN DIEGO, California - Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, celebrated on the third Thursday of February, focuses on the importance of encouraging interest in engineering among girls. In the U.S., about 20% of engineering students are women. While this is an improvement from 20 years ago, there is still a lot that needs to be done to inspire young women to pursue careers in engineering. 

Kleinfelder is committed to supporting events and programs that provide girls and young women with STEM education and learning opportunities. One such annual event is Tech Trek, a one week overnight science and math camp that is held at universities and designed to develop interest, excitement, and self-confidence in girls who will enter eighth grade in the fall.  With Kleinfelder’s corporate headquarters being in San Diego, the firm has sponsored scholarships for two to three attendees of the San Diego camp the past two years, and will sponsor another three scholarships this year. For parents unable to pay for their daughters to attend Tech Trek, sponsorships from organizations and companies are imperative to the success of the program which invites about 120 girls to attend every year.

In addition to sponsorships, the program is made successful by the volunteers who assist with activities, workshops, field trips, and general camper needs during the week of Tech Trek – this is where Kleinfelder’s greatest contribution to the program lies. Teaming up with two of her industry colleagues, Bridge Engineer Karibia Baillargeon coordinated Kleinfelder’s participation on the opening night women’s speaker panel, which included a discussion and Q&A session focused on women in STEM careers.  They prepared two bridge/structural workshop-style classes that were held four nights of the camp for two hours each night. 

Several months of planning went into making the classes fun yet meaningful for the students.  Focusing on education and career paths in engineering, a presentation was developed that discussed the field of structural engineering as well as provided an introduction to bridges – types, uses and behavior during earthquakes.  Students then had to apply what they learned by building a 1.5 ft. tall structure made from toothpicks and gumdrops that had to withstand a minute on a shake table (built and donated by Kleinfelder Construction Materials Testing Manager Chad Davis and his team of technicians) that mimicked ground movement during seismic activity.  The second activity reinforced concepts related to basic bridge design, types of loads, their application and effects on bridges. Students were given minimum dimensions to build their own bridges out of straws and tape. They then loaded their bridges with rocks, competing over whose bridge sustained the maximum rock load.  Along with Karibia, volunteers from Kleinfelder’s bridge engineering and IT departments, including Linda Lannen, Aashka Vora, Andrea -Mejia and Dusty Ramsey, participated by giving the presentation and/or facilitating the activities each night. 

“Programs like Tech Trek are so important to helping girls continue their interest in science, math, engineering and technology, especially at the pre-teen age when girls’ interest in STEM careers tends to drop,” explained Karibia.  “Studies have shown that girls’ curiosity in STEM can be sustained if they continue to be presented with technical problem-solving activities and are exposed to female role models who have careers in STEM fields – this is exactly what Tech Trek accomplishes.”

Kleinfelder is proud to have some of the best talent in the industry, who not only contribute to our success now, but also our success in the future by inspiring and empowering young minds that will one day make up the next generation of engineers.

Kleinfelder. Bright People. Right Solutions.
Founded in 1961, Kleinfelder is a leading engineering, construction management, design, and environmental professional services firm. Kleinfelder operates from over 65 office locations in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The company is headquartered in San Diego, California. Poised for growth, Kleinfelder continues to provide high-quality solutions for our diverse client base. Visit or follow us on LinkedIn/Kleinfelder.