Technical University of Denmark: Young women spend their holiday discovering engineering

“Yes, I could’ve partied, but I chose to go on Engineering Camp,” laughs 16-year-old Helia Kahfizadeh, a first-year high school student in the Higher Technical Examination Programme (HTX) in Lyngby.

Together with 39 other young women from all over Denmark, she is spending three days of her autumn holiday at DTU’s Engineering Camp, where innovation, sustainable product development, and hands-on exercises are on the programme.

“It’s great that investments are being made in the STEM women of the future. I think that more women are especially needed in engineering. It’s very closed off as it is now, which is a waste when there are so many women who could help change the future,” says Helia Kahfizadeh, who herself dreams of becoming a chemical engineer.

She has especially been pleased to meet others at the camp who share the same interests as her.

Students will spread the word
The purpose of the Engineering Camp is to open the eyes of young women to the many opportunities offered by engineering and perhaps inspire them to choose a study programme in this field.

Only one in three DTU students are women, and the Engineering Camp organizers hope to change that. Among them are volunteer DTU students which is present under the camp, where they tell the participants about DTU’s study programmes and answer questions.

“What we’ve found out by talking to the participants is that many of them don’t know what engineering is and can do. And it’s obviously important to get the message across to them about what they are actually missing out on before they make their choice,” explains Maiken Nilsson, who herself studies Electrical Energy Technology with only one female fellow student.

The electrical and mechanical engineering programmes are among study programmes at DTU with the lowest intake of women. And the female students are not the only ones who think this is a problem.

“It may be cool with a weekend trip just for the boys, but it’s not so cool when it comes to your everyday student life. The projects I’ve participated in where the sexes were evenly distributed have functioned better. The collaboration has been excellent, and everyone has been more serious,” says Asger Riis Vienberg, who studies Mechanical Engineering.

He has signed up as a student assistent of the Engineering Camp because he would like to contribute to the fact that young women’s choice of education are being made on an informed basis.

Engineering is creative
One of the assignments at the Engineering Camp is that the participants are to build a loudspeaker. They work together in small groups in which they solder and put electronic elements together. Finally, they test whether the loudspeaker works in DTU’s anechoic chamber.

“I personally hope that it will dispel the prejudices about what mechanical and electrical engineering is. In fact, mechanical engineering is a highly creative discipline full of opportunities, and I don’t think that many people are aware of this. It’s about building gadgets that make the world a better place,” explains student assistent Asger Riis Vienberg.

Among several of the participants, it seems that the message has hit the target.

“I probably had a prejudice that engineering is very closed and macho-like. But I think that a camp like this makes engineering more appealing to women. I’ve gained insight into what it actually entails and how broad the discipline is,” says HTX student, Helia Kahfizadeh.

This is the second time that DTU is holding an Engineering Camp for young women.

IT-camp for young women at DTU
On 18-20 October an IT-camp has also been held at DTU. 34 young women from all over the country participated.

Among other things they programmed small robots, learned about algorithms, cyber security and image processing. And then they heard DTU students tell about the projects they have done during their studies.

The purpose of the IT camp is, just like Engineering Camp, to make young women curious about the fields of education at DTU where there are very few women.

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