Jenna Bradwell

Girls get into engineering at WIE summit

Australia’s engineering workforce is overwhelmingly male. However, as a four-day summit for high school students held at UOW proved, for go-getters with an eye for problem solving- engineering is definitely a girl’s world.

Around 60 girls gathered at the University for the annual Women in Engineering Summit, an event that aims to encourage females to consider engineering as a career.

Students attended presentations by Faculty of Engineering academics and female engineers and were given the chance to explore a range of engineering disciplines including environmental, civic, mining, electrical, mechatronics, materials, computer and telecommunications engineering as well as the University’s world-class engineering facilities.

The group also enjoyed field trips to major engineering sites around the region including Bluescope Steel’s Port Kembla Steelworks, Port Kembla harbour where the students visited Railcorp’s rail freight facilities and looked at other developments and the iconic Seacliff Bridge in Wollongong’s northern suburbs.

To top off the summit the girls visited the Science Centre and Planetarium where they had the chance to experiment with superconductivity.

Tiana Barenaba from Batesmans Bay High School and Michaela Padayache from Smith’s Hill High School both signed up for the summit in the hopes of discovering what a career in engineering has to offer.

“I enjoyed the field trips and the chance to meet other girls from different schools who have similar interest to mine,” Tiana said.

Michaela said the event had given her a glimpse of the UOW campus environment and that she had enjoyed making new friends.

Among the practicing female engineers who spoke with the students were Manger of Safer Roads Performance, Transport NSW Delilah Marta and High Voltage Design Manager, Transgrid Angela Klepac.

Ms Marta told the crowd that being an engineer involved “crashing, splatting and exploding” things every day in order to learn how to put them back together and solve problems.

“I still find the field exciting and interesting,” she said.

“I am also raising a family while working full-time so it’s definitely a career in which you can achieve a work/life balance.”

Ms Klepac provided the girls with some tips for succeeding in the field.

“Look into grad programs, challenge yourself and set goals, work in teams to solve problems and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone,” she advised.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said in his closing address to the students that the event had special personal significance as the 2012 summit was among his first engagements as Vice-Chancellor at UOW.

“I am very impressed to see the summit back in 2013,” Professor Wellings said.

“An Engineering degree will provide you with a broad set of skills you can apply in all areas of the workforce. UOW is a very interesting place and there are lots of exciting things happening. We are a university who put teaching and learning centre stage and I hope to see many of you here in the future.”

Women in Engineering organising committee chair Dr Laura Banasiak from the School of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering said that while more than 90 percent of Australia’s engineers are male, there was no reason to think of engineering as a “man’s job”.

“There are great opportunities for women in all the Engineering disciplines,” said Dr Banasiak, who is an Environmental and Civil Engineer.

“Perhaps the problem in the past has been that teenage girls don’t necessarily understand what Engineering involves, and how much variety there is. The Summit program was devised to demonstrate that there are many different fields of Engineering, all offering great career opportunities.”

“Theodore von Karman really was right when he said that ‘scientists study the world as it is; engineers create the world that has never been.’”

By Jenna Bradwell.


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  • Michaela Padayache and Tiana Barenaba were among the high school girls who attended the Women in Engineering Summit.

  • Attendees at the summit opening. The event was enjoyed by 60 girls from various high schools who hoped to explore the field of engineering.

  • The Summit program was devised to demonstrate that there are many different fields of Engineering, all offering great career opportunities for women.

  • UOW Engineering students who led the summit showed off their purple work boots at the event.