In order to host a successful outreach event for high school students, you need to understand the challenges you will face: for general outreach events and specifically for high school girls.
Diversity is a common challenge when organizing an outreach event. Yes, this diversity comes from identity but also from learning style and level of interest. How do you overcome these challenges?
To accommodate learning styles (visual, auditory, kinetic), divide the day into sections to target each - visual: design/presentations, auditory: keynote/tour, kinetic: hands-on rotations/research.
To accommodate diversity of interest level, use passionate AND qualified volunteers. We partnered with many companies, societies, and schools. Also, hold a training camp to prepare your volunteers.
Age matters. High schoolers' engagement in engineering thrives on advanced technical skills, diversity, and real world examples-unlike planning for middle/grade school.
However, they already have moderately developed technical backgrounds. How do you go about solving this challenge while planning your event? The answer lies with the skills taught in your rotations.
Our partnering societies led girls through technical challenges relating to specific fields of engineering, which also allowed girls to explore STEM majors more as they consider applying for college.
With these high tech activities, the challenge of financial resources occurrs. Consider applying for PDG's from SWE. These funds can help cover food and t-shirts (two things high school girls LOVE).
Participants should now have an understanding for engineering fields and are ready for an innovative challenge. How do you keep the girls focused while exciting and encouraging them simultaneously?
Making a difference is an attractive quality of engineering, especially to high school girls. In a design challenge, be open ended to instill creativity but be specific enough to allow for strategy.
Allowing the girls to present their project results to female professional engineers and university professors allowed feedback and inspiration for the successful futures we know the girls will have.
Include a parent/educator program to encourage conversation on engineering and college to continue after the event. Touch on advocating, application processes, and role-modelling during this workshop.
To support technical skills, create activities/apply for PDG's. To support diversity, vary the day to all student styles. To support real-world examples, have design challenge prompts/role-models.
Remember to archive your event with SWE's Outreach Metric Tool and encourage girls to join SWENext. From SWE Illinois, good luck engineering a better high school outreach event. Go make a difference.