Women Engineers Excel by Alison Bergmann

Society of Women Engineers Wins National, Regional, and Local Awards



SWE President Alison Bergmann receiving 
Outstanding Collegiate Section-Silver
from SWE national president Alyse Stofer
SWE Executive Members and Counselor (L-R) at 
Celebrate SWE in Houston: Secretary Anna Wint,
President Alison Bergmann, Counselor Dayna
Johnson, Vice President Marie Daboub, and
Treasurer Sarah Brunsvol

In November the four executive board members of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) attended the SWE national conference WE12 in Houston, where the society won national and regional awards.  At Celebrate SWE, the awards banquet, the Valparaiso University section won the SWE Outstanding Collegiate Section-Silver award.  This national award is given to the schools that best exemplify SWE's objectives: sponsoring education and outreach events, having an inclusive and diverse organization, and offering leadership and professional development events and opportunities.  Less than twenty universities in the nation received this honor. 

At the conference's Region H meeting, Valparaiso SWE won two awards: Region H Outstanding Collegiate Section-Small Sections and Governor's Choice Award-Adopted Collegiate Section.  Region H, the heartland region, is composed of all the professional and collegiate sections in North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.  The Region H Outstanding Collegiate Section is given to the school that best exemplifies SWE's objectives and has been involved in Region H activities.  Valparaiso University was one of only three universities out of forty-four in Region H to receive the Governor's Choice Award.  The Governor's Choice Award was awarded to Valparaiso University for hosting our Region H Governor Wendy Landwehr in the spring. 

In June 2012, the Valparaiso University SWE section also won two awards from the local Chicago Professional SWE section.  The two awards were the Best Collegiate Section-Small Sections and honorable mention for our website.  In order to win these awards, our section offered several events: Girl Scout Day, Friends in Engineering, SWEsters, and SPAC.

SWE Hosts Girl Scouts

In the spring, Valparaiso SWE hosted approximately twenty-five Girl Scouts for an afternoon of engineering based activities (computer programming, CAD, and bridge building) along with a tour of the Scientific Visualization Lab. These activities represented the four engineering majors at our university: Electrical, Computer, Mechanical, and Civil Engineering. The SWE section president also spoke about engineering in general to several hundred Girl Scouts on the 96th floor of the Hancock building in downtown Chicago. This was for the John Hancock Girl Scout Sleepover for the Girl Scout's 100th Anniversary.

SWE Hosts Discoveries Unlimited

Discoveries Unlimited is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) mentoring program targeted at girls in 6th to 8th grade in the Valparaiso area. Each of the girls is partnered with a mentor that is currently working in the STEM fields. Valparaiso SWE was asked by the Director and CEO of the program to host an event in both the fall and spring semesters. In the fall of 2011, Valparaiso SWE introduced the girls to the design process. The mentor and mentee pairs designed and built roller coasters out of pipe insulation, tubing, and duct tape. The teams created posters and PowerPoint presentations to describe their designs to the other groups.

In the spring, Valparaiso SWE introduced the girls to mechanical, civil, electrical, and computer engineering through Time Engineers. Time Engineers is a computer program that was created by professors at Valparaiso University in order to introduce middle and high school students to the fundamental principles of engineering. By using Time Engineers, the girls learn binary numbers, Boolean logic, weirs and water flow, force balance, and trajectory.

After the girls and their mentors played Time Engineers, the girls were given a tour of our Scientific Visualization Lab. Finally, senior engineers at Valparaiso University presented their senior design projects to the girls and their mentors. Each of the girls received a copy of Time Engineers to take home.

SWE Friends in Engineering Program      

Friends in Engineering (FIE) is an elementary school outreach program for girls and boys in 2nd through 5th grade. The FIE program matches children of the Valparaiso University faculty and staff with current SWE members. The ratio between mentors and mentees is one-to-one, with two additional SWE members acting as program directors. The mentors and mentees meet together as a group once or twice a month during the school year. The program directors and mentors introduced the mentees to general science and engineering.

One task the mentees were given was to make a base for a book tower out of six note cards and six paperclips. The mentees were very surprised to see that some designs could actually support twenty to thirty textbooks. After the tasks for the day were completed, the mentors and their mentees met one-on-one to discuss what they had done that day, and the mentees wrote what they had learned in their journals.

SWE SWEsters Program

Although SWE has been a positive force in keeping women in engineering, Valparaiso SWE felt they could take this influence to the next level and personally introduce the incoming freshmen to current SWE members. SWEsters was created three years ago to be a mentoring program that matches incoming freshmen with upperclassmen.

Valparaiso SWE emailed all of the incoming freshmen with program details and invited them to apply. With the received applications, the SWE executive board matched freshmen applicants to the upperclassmen based on common interests and indicated major. The mentors and mentees are required to meet at least twice a month, whether it is for lunch or to go to a basketball game. We believe this program was instrumental in furthering leadership qualities as all of the mentors in this program were instrumental in encouraging their mentees to remain in the program and to develop a welcoming community within the College of Engineering.

Student Professional Awareness Conference

The Valparaiso SWE section partnered with the Valparaiso IEEE section in order to put on S-PAC or the Student Professional Awareness Conference. S-PAC is an IEEE professional development program that reaches out to all the engineering majors. This program includes dinner and three professional speakers: IEEE representative, Wendy Landwehr (SWE Region H Governor), and Professor Tougaw.


Valpo SWE Members 2012-2013 in front of Gellersen
Center for Engineering on Valpo's Campus

The IEEE representative gave an overview of engineering careers. Wendy Landwehr gave a presentation on her company Northrop Grumman. Professor Tougaw gave a presentation on creativity and innovation. Valparaiso SWE worked with IEEE, the Dean of the College of Engineering, and the professors of the College of Engineering to make sure this event would be funded and well attended. Over sixty engineering students and faculty attended the event. By working with IEEE, the attendance for S-PAC was the highest in fifteen years!

SWE Region H Conference

Valparaiso SWE is excited to send the most members ever to our Region H Conference.  Seventeen students from Valpo will be attending the conference in Minneapolis in February 2013.