Cox, who said she plans to pursue astronautical engineering, said at the event last Thursday, “If more women put themselves out there and take that risk of making themselves a social figure for engineering, it would bring in so many girls.”
She added: “I’m half Hispanic, half African-American, so I’m three minorities, and for me to do this, it’s a big step. I’ve had so many teachers and professors tell me I’m never going to make it. I don’t want to be some regular person in the community. Being here, I know I’m making it.”
More than 400 girls were expected to attend one of the five events at NYIT’s Manhattan and Old Westbury campuses, which had to be expanded from three days to five because of the interest from local schools and after-school programs.
Theresa Oriental, a sophomore at the university from Westbury, serves as vice president of the Society of Women Engineers, which had a booth for the girls to create boats with straws and aluminum foil before adding pennies to see if they stay afloat.
“This is a great start because I didn’t have this,” Oriental, who is pursuing biomedical engineering, said. “For them, having this at a younger age expands their mind and gives them a better opportunity to make a decision. It also opens a different range of ideas within the field and what we’re about. A lot of times, women are underestimated, so having this event and letting them do the on-hands work shows them that they can and they will do whatever they want as long as they put their minds to it.”
Nada Anid, the first female dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, said the day is part of a national week meant to celebrate engineering.
Anid said the annual event brings hundreds of girls to the campus, giving them a chance to interact with students from clubs such as the Society of Women Engineers, the Association for Computer Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Automotive Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
“It’s about conveying this love for knowledge and, in engineering, not only do you learn, but you also design, create and make, so there is another aspect of creativity,” Anid said. “You build a robot, you program it to walk, it becomes a drone, you write a code, you design an app. The sky is the limit — you can invent the next cure. You can clean our water reservoirs. We want to show them that this is not a career or a field for nerds. This is a career where you as girls can change society and contribute to the common good.”
Gary Repetto, head of science at Brentwood High School, said he has brought about 35 girls to the event every year for the past six years after his female physics teacher often pointed out that her classes were almost all filled with boys.
“We’re seeing them so docile in classes, but here, they’re doing something and they’re learning,” Repetto said. “You have to be introduced to this, and for whatever reason, a lot of girls don’t pursue this area because of a lack of exposure.”