Nearly 100 female Norwalk-La Mirada eighth-graders from Corvallis, Los Alisos and Waite middle schools participated in a day of hands-on learning and instruction during Female Challenge Day on Dec. 2 at Norwalk High School.

Cal Poly Pomona Project Lead The Way (PLTW) students joined Norwalk High School’s Pathway to Engineering (PTE) students to speak to the middle schoolers about the challenges and rewards of pursuing education and careers in the traditionally male-dominated field of engineering.

“The purpose of ‘Female Challenge Day’ is to encourage our eighth-grade girls to visualize themselves in a career pathway that leads straight to university,” Norwalk High engineering teacher Alan Davis said. “We want to demonstrate that engineering can be fun and that the sky is the limit for those who are curious, have vivid imaginations and high expectations.”

Cal Poly students began the day by advising the middle-schoolers on the various branches of engineering available to study, including civil, chemical and electrical, which can lead to lucrative careers in aerospace, space exploration, transportation and infrastructure, coding and developing smartphone apps.

The students broke out into smaller groups to work with the Cal Poly representatives on introductory engineering projects, such as making a hydraulic crane out of popsicle sticks and a syringe, or constructing a cantilever out of spaghetti and masking tape.

Ten female 2017 graduates from Norwalk High’s inaugural PTE class held a breakout session to talk about how diversity in the field of engineering can lead to advances and technological breakthroughs.

“The engineering pathway helps you to be creative,” Norwalk High senior Jessica Valencia said. “Engineering is all about designing and solving problems. In order to innovate, you have to have fresh ideas and be open-minded. The female perspective is extremely vital to this field.”

Los Alisos eighth-grader Emily Ma, who is interesting in studying chemical or mechanical engineering, was fascinated at the depth of the PTE curriculum, and how it helps inform other subjects of interest to her.

“I can also use this knowledge for my art,” Ma said. “Also, I never knew that hydraulics was a part of engineering. I found that making a crane was very challenging and fun.”

Norwalk High began its PTE program in 2014, and will graduate its first class this school year.

“We have so many intelligent and gifted young women in our schools, and they are eager and prepared to excel in any field of study they choose,” NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian said. “There is great opportunity for those who feel they design a better car, or develop a research program that can provide the world with cleaner water.


121316_NLMUSD_ENGINEERINGDAY1: Four Norwalk-La Mirada Unified middle school students construct a cantilever using spaghetti and masking tape, one of several introductory engineering projects designed to spur interest in the Norwalk High School engineering pathway, during Female Challenge Day on Dec. 2.

121316_NLMUSD_ENGINEERINGDAY2: Inspiring a new generation of women to contemplate careers in engineering, nearly 100 students from Corvallis, Los Alisos and Los Coyotes middle schools participated in a day of hands-on learning and instruction during Female Challenge Day, held at Norwalk High School on Dec. 2.