Building with the boys

Girls participation increases in traditionally male engineering club

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Building with the boys

Freshman Madilyn Calderon tinkers with her robot in class.

Freshman Madilyn Calderon tinkers with her robot in class.

Shae Daugherty

Freshman Madilyn Calderon tinkers with her robot in class.

Shae Daugherty

Shae Daugherty

Freshman Madilyn Calderon tinkers with her robot in class.

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Founded in 2008, the Xtreme Engineering club did not have girl members for its first five years. However, the number of girl participants has now increased to make up nearly half of the team, reflecting a national increase of women in the field of engineering.

“The year before last is when we started to have multiple girls,” engineering and robotics teacher Brian Lidington said. “Last year we had three, and this year we’ve got five. We’re growing up a little bit, and that’s [girls] that are participating in the club. So last year we had three [girls on the team], but there was really only 10 or 11 [students] that went to competitions, so it was a lot higher percentage than you’d think.”

The club meets after school Monday through Thursday, where they work with several robots and practice competing with one.

“Organizing the parts and helping build it [is my favorite part about the club] because building [the robot] takes a while, but you get to see how to make things better if you mess up,” freshman Madilyn Calderon said. “Getting to build it piece by piece–I guess it’s more of a team effort, so that’s what makes it so fun.”

Just as extracurriculars like band, football, or theatre provide students with interactions among their peers, Calderon said the team provides her with a new group of friends.

“I really like engineering, and I guess it’s a new way to get in a group and have more friends and get to have fun while doing robotics,” Calderon said. “I think [I’m most excited for] the competitions because I actually haven’t been in one. This is my first year.”

Lidington attributes the increased involvement of female students in the club in part to early engineering programs at other campuses.

“We are trying to implement STEM programs much earlier, like robotics,” Lidington said. “We’re doing robotics in the middle school, and that’s what’s bringing up our numbers because the girls are getting involved in fifth and sixth grade, and they like it, so that’s a huge thing. We’re going to try to go and start more engineering stuff in the elementary schools, but I think a big thing for girls is getting them interested earlier in their life. Otherwise they just get involved with things.”

Sophomore Carissa Dresser hopes the club will prepare her for a future career in environmental or marine-ocean engineering.

“I want to do deep-sea robots, so building robots on land will prepare me for that,” Dresser said.

The Xtreme Engineering club hopes to make the state competition and to “emulate a more formal working environment,” as Lidington said, by assigning roles and working on communication and teamwork in the school year. He added that girls in the club bring specific traits to the team that “keep the groups functioning.”

“Honestly, the girls that do participate tend to be more disciplined than the boys,” Lidington said. “They’re more dedicated because I really believe that they made a choice that they want to do this, and they will stick to the task better than the guys do for the most part. I’ve never really had, and even in the engineering classes, any girls that aren’t motivated. They’re always motivated. They’re always getting stuff done. They’re interested and they drive the boys. They also tend to keep the groups functioning a little better because they want harmony.”

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