Engineering the future: Go ENG GIRL invites Grade 7-10 girls to explore the world of engineering

By Heather Travis | October 1, 2011

A Styrofoam plate, cardboard, tape, a cup and string might look like a menagerie of objects, but to J.J. VanGoozen, the collection presents an interesting design challenge.

VanGoozen was one of 79 young women in Grades 7-10 who participated in Western Engineering's Go ENG Girl even on October 1, 2011. The annual event is designed to introduce females to the field of engineering as a “caring profession.”

“My dad's an engineer and I want to keep my options open for engineering,” says the Grade 9 student.

VanGoozen and her partner, Kahlia Lapple, designed a ‘rescue rover’ device using mechanical engineering design principles to lift a toy dog out of a barrel.

“It was really fun trying to figure it out,” says VanGoozen.

Likewise, Lapple signed up for the program to learn more about the field.

Girls in Grades 7-8 exercised civil and structural engineering principles building ‘Toppling Towers’ that could support a golf ball for two minutes.

The number of female students in Western’s undergraduate program are at the national average, making up about 19-20 per cent, says Lesley Mounteer, (Associate Director, External Services, Faculty of Engineering).

Mounteer, along with mechanical engineering professor Cynthia Dunning, co-chaired the 2011 event. Go ENG Girl was initiated seven years ago by the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering.

“Go ENG Girl’s goal is to enlighten young women in Grades 7, 8, 9, 10 about what engineering is all about,” Mounteer says. “We are hoping with programs like this, over time it will increase the number of females in engineering programs.”

Young girls of this age group don't like to be 'good in science and math' even though they are, she says. As well, young women seek out professions where they are helping people, but engineering is traditionally viewed as a male-dominated profession focused mainly on building and designing.

The program targets Grades 7-10 girls because this is the time period they are making decisions about long-term academic plans. Since engineering is a direct entry program, youth need to consider the academic requirements early, Mounteer explains.

“Women and men bring different attributes to any profession,” she says. “It makes sense to have women and men work together on teams.

“We want to make an atmosphere where women feel welcome and enjoy what they are doing,” she continues, noting it starts at a young age.

About 25 women studying Engineering at Western volunteered to assist with the event. They are motivated to give back because “they want more females in the program,” says Mounteer.

In addition to the activities, Sarah Shortreed, BESc'89 (Mechanical), vice-president planning and CIO Program Office at Research in Motion, offered the keynote address.

Parents were also invited to participate in a panel discussion involving students, an academic counsellor, professors and professional engineers.

The interest in the event continues to grow and Western continues to be one of 15 Ontario universities offering the program each year. While it would be ideal if the program increased female applications to Western - which is also part of the faculty's strategic plan - the goal is to raise awareness about the field among young women and grow the number of women studying engineering overall.

“One of our biggest goals as a faculty is to do something a little different,” Mounteer says. "Our goal is to continue to do more programs like this."

For more information on Go ENG Girl, visit 

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.: Allison Stevenson
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