Building your future

By By Ana Breton and By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Female high school students from across the state will have a chance to build their own future-in just four days.

Every year, 40 female high school students between ninth and 12th grades are selected to participate in the U’s Hi-GEAR (Girls’ Engineering Abilities Realized) program. A handful of U students will serve as interns in the camp, which runs from June 12-16.

The program gives high school female students a chance to learn about engineering without having to sit in a classroom all summer long, said Caitlin Whitaker, program director.

“All the activities that take place in Hi-GEAR are hands on,” Whitaker said. “Whether you are participating in a presentation or collaborating in a team activity, you will be learning from experience.”

Whitaker said that by giving women a chance to participate in engineering activities, they will become less intimidated by what was once known as a “men’s field.”

“Surveys taken by past participants estimate that the number of female students in engineering has increased by 36 percent since 2000,” she said.

Azadeh Poursaid, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, attended Hi-GEAR as a high school student during the summer of 2004 and said she liked the U’s program so much, it influenced her to enroll.

“The program left a great impression on me because, not only was it very organized and informative, but it was also fun and exciting,” Poursaid said.

She said she gained a sense of pride and motivation toward the engineering field by working with other women during Hi-GEAR.

“The knowledge that you’re not alone makes you want to prove yourself as a woman engineer and professional,” Poursaid said. “This program breaks down the stereotype and feeling that engineering is part of a man’s world.”

Activities in the past have included building and programming robots through a maze, using a distillation process to make perfume and building catapults for launching water balloons.

Whitaker said Hi-GEAR also offers a good opportunity for female high-school students to learn about their educational options.

“Even if the girls don’t want to major in engineering after they go through this, they can make a better decision once they are in college,” Whitaker said.

Allyson Lundberg, a senior in chemical engineering, served as an intern for Hi-GEAR last summer and said the program provides a venue for girls to feel like they belong and are “not so weird for being smart at math and science.”

“This is a place where you can come and be exposed to the possibilities engineering can bring to you,” Lundberg said. “It’s also a place to create friendships and gain a better understanding of life.”

Those interested in becoming an intern or participant in the Hi-GEAR Program should contact Caitlin Whitaker at 581-8954.