Women in Engineering to host free robotics workshop for young women and non-binary students

Female and non-binary high-school students will get an overview of TRU’s engineering program.

TRU’s Women in Engineering will welcome female and non-binary high school students from grades eight to 12 to a free robotics workshop on April 20. The workshop will run from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with lunch included.

Attendees will tour the Makerspace, learn how to use the 3D printer, explore the VR equipment, and receive hands-on experience creating working robots.

The workshop will feature TRU alum Lorelei Guidos as its keynote speaker. Guidos, the first woman to graduate from TRU’s Software Engineering class, will tell her story of breaking into software engineering, a field that has long been male-dominated. According to data from Engineers Canada, only 20.6 per cent of the newly licensed engineers in the country identify as women. In B.C., that number is lower still, at 12 per cent.

Catherine Tatarniuk, an assistant teaching professor in the engineering department, said the inspiration behind this workshop was the need for more female enrollment in the engineering program. As one of the event’s organizers, she highlighted the importance of creating a more diverse setting for the students.

“We want to make sure that girls understand that engineering is for everyone, and it’s a super fun and exciting career that they should consider,” Tatarniuk said. “It’s not something that’s usually marketed towards them, but we think it should be.”

Tatarnuik will take the students to the Makerspace for her presentation, which will explore topics such as her career and the various engineering disciplines available for students to study. Several other department professors will also attend.

Geoff Fink, an assistant teaching professor specializing in robotics, will lead the robotics portion of this workshop and assist the students in bringing their creations to life.

“We’re trying to make it interesting to the girls by having this project,” Fink said. “It looks complicated, but we can show them that anybody can do it.”

Once each robot is assembled, there will be several challenges. Students will be taught how to make their robots go back and forth, follow different lines and even make them dance. During a past workshop, the students even added songs for the robot to dance to.

This is the third year of the workshop, and according to Tatarniuk, there have already been positive results with the enrollment of girls in engineering. Fink believes the younger participants, who are years away from graduating high school, still hold importance for the program.

“Even if they haven’t quite worked up to here yet, we understand it’s a long-term thing. So hopefully, we see [greater female enrollment] over the next few years, the longer we’re into the project,” Fink said.

Engineers Canada, a national organization, created a plan called 30 by 30. The goal is to raise the percentage of newly licensed women engineers to 30 per cent by 2030.

While the statistics are not quite there yet, the slowly increasing number of women entering engineering may be attributed to workshops (like this one) targeting young female and non-binary students. Past participants have even enrolled in the TRU program, and the goal is to continue and strengthen the trend.

Students interested in this unique opportunity may click this link to register for the workshop.