Local high schoolers gathered at Penn State Behrend for their annual ‘Women in Engineering’ Day.

Many girls were inspired by mentors and introduced to varied career options within the field of engineering.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with sexism in STEM activities in the past. So, the ability to be apart of any women in STEM organization or see women in STEM is really inspiring,” said Mia Liu, junior at McDowell High School

In a male-dominated field, future developers, designers and problem solvers gathered at Penn State Behrend for their annual ‘Women in Engineering’ day.

The Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center occupied more than 150 students from 27 local high schools.

“There’s not as many women in engineering as we would like. So, having an opportunity like this to encourage more girls to go into that field is critical,” said Melanie Ford, director of youth education outreach at Penn State Behrend.

Students participated in hands-on, interactive workshops with activities that showed basic engineering principles.

Practicing women engineers from Wabtec and other companies led sessions that encouraged girls like Mia Liu for their future careers.

“Normally in a classroom environment you’re only just listening to lectures or sometimes you work in a group and do hypotheticals but, being able to do this real hands-on experience and really touch and actually engage in what something like in the field would actually be like is something so unique,” Liu said.

The event’s keynote speaker, Julia Cecchetti, is a Behrend alumni who currently works as a propulsion engineer at SpaceX.

Ford said one of the highlights is seeing girls who have gone through the program come back to mentor future generations.

“Not only do these high school girls get to meet practicing women engineers, but they are also meeting people that came to Women in Engineering when they were in high school and this day was the reason they went into engineering. It’s a nice circle of mentorship to get that excitement,” ford went on to say.

The girls also had the opportunity to design and build LED flowers, gum ball machines and model pipelines.