Libraries Hosts Incoming Freshmen Women Engineers

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“Who here has any experience with coding?” asks NCSU Libraries Fellow Lauren Di Monte. In a room of 50 incoming freshman women at an ESCape Camp hands-on wearables workshop sponsored by Glen Raven at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, about five hands go up, some tilting back and forth.

None of those hands belongs to Kaitlyn Sullivan, who lives just outside of Boone, or Courtney King, who grew up just north of Charlotte. They admit to a bit of intimidation about coding. “I feel like other people know more than I do—I’m like down here,” Sullivan says, holding her hand next to her knee and laughing.

Courtney King and Kaitlyn Sullivan participate in the wearables workshop.Sullivan, King, and the other incoming women engineers spent an afternoon in the Hunt Library Creativity Studio at tables strewn with materials from the NCSU Libraries Makerspaces. Di Monte’s workshop in wearable technology acquainted them with conductive thread and Arduinos, as well as the basics of writing code, as part of the ESCape Summer Bridge Program--a weeklong orientation organized by the Women in Engineering Program (WIE) in the College of Engineering.

Over five days, the cohort of young women acclimated to campus, made connections with members of the NC State engineering community, and networked with industry representatives. Started in 2008, the ESCape camp helps participants start freshman year at full speed and feel completely equipped to pursue an engineering degree.

“ESCape is designed to support incoming female engineering students as they transition from high school to college,” says Kesha Entzminger, Associate Director of Women and Minority Engineering Programs. “We hope that the relationships and community built will carry on as students participate in living-learning villages like WISE and Engineering Village, Engineering 101, and other student organizations.”

Sullivan and King peck at their laptop for a few minutes and figure out how to program an Arduino to dim an LED light on and off. Their code is slightly wrong the first time, but they troubleshoot it and make the fix. While these women look like your average high school seniors enjoying their summer, they’re already driven to succeed in their chosen field of study.

“If you graduate in engineering, you’ll find a job,” Sullivan says. “I know a lot of students who get business degrees and can’t find jobs right out of school.”

King nods. “I just like all the math,” she says. “I really liked Calculus and Physics, so this is great.”

This summer, participants learned about the basics of campus life at NC State, as well as the possible outcomes of an engineering degree here. They lived in a dorm, rode campus busses, ate in dining halls, visited the Thompson Hall Crafts Center, and did zumba in a Carmichael gym studio. They also met industry representatives from John Deere and toured facilities at NetApp in Research Triangle Park, Caterpillar in Clayton, and the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, NC.

“I'm really excited about this program, and I'm hoping it will help usher in a lot more,” Di Monte says. “This event is the ESCape participants' first experience with the Makerspace and likely first experience with the Libraries. Thanks to Glen Raven's generous sponsorship, They’ll be able to take home their Arduino boards and parts so that they can keep learning and experimenting.“