May 13, 2014

Explore IT event introduces girls to engineering

Grade 9 girls build robots and design circuit boards at the Schulich School of Engineering

On May 7, more than 600 girls from Grade 9 classes around Calgary stepped out of the classroom and into the world of information technology. Calgary’s three largest post-secondary institutions partnered for Explore IT, an event to raise awareness among young women about IT and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and SAIT Polytechnic hosted interactive presentations and laboratory demonstrations throughout the day.  The 15th annual Explore IT event introduced the young women to the high-tech world through interactive workshops, discovery sessions and one-on-one mentoring at all three campuses.

In the last 10 years, attendance at the one-day event has more than quadrupled.  At all three schools, students heard from keynote speaker Laurel Sim, an award winning project manager and the past-president for the Project Management Institute in Southern Alberta.

“It’s awesome,” said Marnie Krushnel, a science teacher from H.D. Cartwright Junior School. “This is an opportunity I could never create in the classroom. It is experiential learning and the most important part is the modelling and mentorship from real experts.”

At the Schulich School of Engineering, participants built and programmed their own robots. The girls also had a hands-on opportunity to learn the skills to assemble a simple circuit board with electronic components.

For Grade 9 student Bandile Phiri, Explore IT is a unique opportunity to try her hand at real science. “I think robotics is cool, it’s not like standard schoolwork. We can improvise to learn on our own.”

Events like these inspire young women to consider engineering as a possible career option, according to Laleh Behjat, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. She has been a driving force behind many of Schulich’s outreach activities. “Schulich is committed to providing a welcoming environment and encourage young women to become the future Engineers of Canada,” says Behjat.

Since its inception, Explore IT has exposed more than 5,000 female students in Calgary to the world of information technology and the range of career options