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The MIT Women's Technology
Program (WTP) is a rigorous 4-week
summer academic and residential
experience where female high
school students explore engineering
and computer science through
hands-on classes, labs and team-
based projects in the summer
after eleventh grade.
Students attend WTP in either
Electrical Engineering and
Computer Science or in Mechanical
Engineering. The goal of WTP is
to encourage these students to
apply colleges with engineering
and computer science programs
and to pursue these fields as
their careers.
We deliberately try to pick in
the application process students
who do not already know they want
to be engineers. We don't want
students who have been exposed to
engineering. We want the students
who are thinking, "I might want
to major in biology, I might want
to be a doctor. I'm not sure what
I want to do. I like art." So we
want the students who are good
at math and science but haven't
been exposed to engineering and
don't really no much about it.
And it's really fascinating to
see their views on engineering
change because when they come in
many of them have the stereo-
typical view that engineers and
scientists work alone, they're
often male, they don't interact
much with other people etc...
And as they find out when they're
here so much of engineering is
teamwork. And also the lack of
female role models. Many high
school girls have not met a female
engineer or computer scientist
until they attend college.
And so when they get exposed to
not only lots of different role
models in the field but also the
actual material itself, they
really start to get so excited
about all the potential and start
to see that they themselves might
be able to be in this field one
day. And I think that's the main
goal of WTP to really give them
a taste of something but still
leave them wanting more. We want
to spark this interest and we
want to show that these topics
we love and are excited about are
things that other people should
also love and be excited about.
And so I think a little bit of
spreading the message of telling
them how wonderful the
opportunities are in engineering
and science so that they can
pursue that whether it's back in
their hometown or in college and
beyond.
(It's supposed to be at 8.2. . .)
So I was part of the WTP
Mechanical Engineering 2006 class
which was the first year they
ran the MechE track, and I
actually didn't want to be an
engineer at all. I really wanted
to be a documentary filmmaker
and so I was applying to summer
programs for film and arts, but
my physics teacher said he'd
only write me a letter of
recommendation for those programs
if I also applied to WTP. I was
really good at math and science
but I never really knew what
engineering was and I really
enjoyed it because on the first
or second day they gave a toolbox
and we got to take apart a
printer and see all the parts
inside and I was like, "Oh, this
is awesome!" So it really, really
opened my eyes and changed my
life for real.
I think its also really
interesting to watch because you
get this completely different
perspective. For a lot of us
having been in our fields for
ten years or maybe a little more
you sort of forget what it was
like when you first started.
And to see these girls both
struggle but also have these
moments of just total joy when
they get something to work is a
really rewarding experience. And
hearing the students say, "Oh I
had no idea about this topic but
now I want to this, or I want to
do this!" Or maybe they say, "I
want to do exactly what you're
doing in your research!" is a
really good feeling because it
feels like a little step towards
improving all of the environments
and all of the conditions for
everyone in engineering and
science but especially women.
In my physics class I was the
only girl so I thought that's
how it was, but seeing all these
other females actually boosted
my self-esteem and made me much
more confident in my abilities.
And I feel like I left the program
with a much better sense of myself
than coming in which was really
amazing.
The way I counsel my undergraduate
advisees and my own children is
really, you have to find what
you're passionate about and then
do it. And don't worry if it
changes throughout time, just
find what you're passionate about
and do it. So seeing people go
through the program and realize
that this is something they
could actually love and be
passionate about is what I most
love. And I am so grateful for
this opportunity to affect these
young women's lives in such a
positive way.
I think it's very important for
a program like WTP to exist at
MIT because MIT has an image as
this very prestigious and hard
to access place. But our WTP
students come here and our MIT
students who teach in WTP put a
human face on MIT. And also it
gives the students a realization
that this is not a place that is
out of reach for them. They
definitely can come here and
succeed and many of them do.
So I would like to encourage
students who are very enthusiastic
about working hard over four weeks
in the summer, who enjoy problem
solving and collaboration and who
want to experience hands-on
learning to apply to WTP because
you never know unless you apply.