ExxonMobil works to give girls light-bulb moments

by Allison Hatfield | March 1, 2020

If you don’t have someone explain to you how a light bulb works, how are you going to learn?

That’s a question ExxonMobil engineer Michelle Rose ponders. Her engineer father sparked a curiosity in Rose that led her to a career that now has her hoping to do the same for others.

Rose recently spoke to about 50 middle school girls from Dallas-area schools who gathered to spend the morning at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science for ExxonMobil’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. The students were sixth, seventh, and eighth graders from Bowman Middle School (Plano ISD) and Richardson West Junior High School (Richardson ISD). They were selected for their interest and aptitude for math and science to engage with and learn from ExxonMobil employees.

At the event, the girls worked in teams to build a free-standing bridge using cardboard shapes, dowels, and tape. They competed to create a structure that could hold the most weight. ExxonMobil employees guided the girls with their expertise and encouraged them to think and solve problems like engineers.  

Rose talked to the students about careers in engineering, creating relevancy by explaining how engineers are involved in bringing to life the goods and services we use in our daily lives. And she pushed them to be aggressively curious. “I encouraged them to, when they come across things they want to know how they work, to ask questions — to be brave with asking questions,” she says.

For Rose, who has worked at ExxonMobil more than a decade, the highlight of the morning was “connecting with the girls, sitting with them at the table and listening to their aspirations, and seeing their gears turning on what could be possible for them.”

Founded in 2003, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is part of DiscoverE’s annual Girl Day campaign, which was created to improve education and raise awareness of the need for more young people to consider engineering as a profession. More than 15,000 students across the United States have participated in ExxonMobil’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day events since the program’s inception.

The hope is that some of those students had an experience that ignited a passion that led them to study engineering in college and that they became part of the population of female engineers — which stands at a mere 13 percent, according to the Society of Women Engineers. ExxonMobil is invested in growing that number.

“Research shows that when students are given the opportunity to explore meaningful engineering activities — with role models — it builds their interest, confidence, and understanding,” Rose says.

If you have a child who is interested in math and science — but you find yourself at a loss as to how to encourage those interests — check out discovere.org and engineergirl.org for ideas and inspiration. As an educator or parent, it can be hard to come up with ideas and activities that are both fun and engaging, Rose says. These websites are places girls can explore on their own or with their families.

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