It is a known fact women make up a great deal less of the engineering workforce than men. In 2015 only 14 percent of engineers were women, according to a 2017 report from the Global Policy Institute. The push to introduce young female students to engineering and to familiarize them with the subject has more recently been a priority across the United States.
Last week in Cranston, 13 high school-aged girls hailing from Cranston, Warwick, LaSalle and Bay View presented the progress being made on projects they have been working on in teams at Johnson Controls as part of the Women in Technology (WIT) internship program, aimed at creating hands-on engineering experiences for high school girls. The program was started in 2016 by the Tyco Engineering firm and was continued by Johnson Controls after a merger with Tyco.
The girls work in three teams of students from various schools (one team of six, one team of four and one team of three) on complex engineering projects, spending a day each week at Johnson Controls working with and learning from adult mentors in the engineering field. They have focused on various types of engineering and skills, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and programming. They also employ a variety of other skills in their work, utilizing skills in the areas of mathematics and science as well as skills that include teamwork and problem solving.
At last week’s presentations, the students presented in their groups to a room filled with adults from their respective schools, school departments and from Johnson Controls. Each team member took a turn discussing an aspect of the project, the skills used, trial and error experiences and what they were learning along the way.
Their projects included one team that was taking apart a convection toaster oven and replacing all of the components and displays in order to create a reflow oven which is used for the soldering (heating and cooling) of circuit boards.
Another team was creating a manifold for more efficient testing system that Johnson Controls could use for testing multiple sprinklers at a time for leaks using pressurized nitrogen gas.
The third team was working on a method to shred plastic (such as from water bottles or Legos) which can then be re-purposed for use with a 3D printer, utilizing a machine created by one of last year’s WIT teams.
Following the group presentations, the members of the audience were taken on a tour of the various facilities where the groups of students were seen on site with their adult mentors, working on their projects. At each stop the students were able to further explain their projects and what aspect of them was being worked on at the time. The adult mentors were also able to explain further some of the features and benefits of the projects as well as some of the learning taking place.
In February, an additional open house event will take place where students will share their continued progress.