After RS&H engineers Priscilla Brubeck and Maria Ruiz completed a STEM workshop for teen and pre-teen girls, a fifth grader walked up to the pair and told them she wanted to be a computer engineer.
“At that age, I didn’t even know what an engineer was,” Priscilla said. “It’s so important to plant that seed early on in kids’ – especially girls’ – lives.”
That is exactly what Priscilla, Maria, and other RS&H associates are trying to do, as they kick the company’s participation in STEM workshops into high gear.
This March, a team of associates in Jacksonville went to a conference hosted by Expanding Your Horizons, a national nonprofit, to teach attendees about engineering. They explained concepts like tension and compression to groups of middle-school aged girls and then put them to work, instructing them to make bridges out of straws.
At the end of the session, Maria and Priscilla tested out the strength of each team’s bridges, putting an iPhone on them to simulate live loads on a bridge. Every bridge withstood the test, surprising the girls.
“For them to believe in themselves, that they can build something and it won’t collapse, I feel like that’s an important part of the process,” said Priscilla.
It’s also beneficial for girls to interact with female engineers, said Maria.
Women currently only make up about 35 percent of undergraduate STEM degrees, even though they account for almost 60 percent of all undergraduate degrees earned, according to National Center for Education Statistics. Even more concerning is the breakdown within STEM: though women earn 40 percent of math degrees, only earn 18 percent graduate with a computer sciences or engineering major.
At their STEM presentations, “us being two women presenting kind of changes the perception of who engineers can be,” said Maria.
Maria and Priscilla also take part in other STEM-related community efforts, as part of the Florida Engineering Society (FES). They are joined in their efforts by many other associates.
RS&H will continue its involvement in this area in July, as associates participate in a STEM workshop with the Girl Scouts.
This collective participation is the brainchild of Senior Human Resources Generalist Adam Mason, who has volunteered for Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) for years. When he started at RS&H in November 2017, he brought his community involvement plans to the leadership team, which actively encouraged the pursuit.
Following the success at the EYH conference, the Girl Scouts reached out to company leadership about a possible partnership. Adam hopes to continue RS&H involvement with the Girl Scouts and STEM work in general – with a vision for the future in mind.
“Ensuring that all kids are exposed to science, math and technology now means a brighter future within our industry and beyond,” Adam said.