Christina Casci

Cal Poly students involved in Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are visiting local elementary schools and fourth-grade classrooms this week to spark interest in engineering by doing a simple and interactive science project with each classroom.

“We want to let the kids know that there are people out there doing what every other girl isn’t doing,” said Sofie Leon, a civil engineering junior and Career Outreach director of SWE.

The club has been doing outreach to younger students for as long as it has been at Cal Poly, Leon said. “We are really interested in promoting diversity, so schools like this one that are bilingual are a really great way to reach out.”

Not every student that helps is even in SWE. Civil engineering senior Scott Nordholm was asked to help the kids with the projects, which consisted of constructing sailboats out of straws, paper and LifeSavers.

“It’s fun to work with kids,” he said. “You can’t really convince them of anything right now, but they are having fun and that’s what is important.”

“The program is used to introduce children to the idea of engineering as a great field to enter that’s exciting and fun,” said Amy Hewes, director of communications for the College of Engineering.

“We know the kids are having fun when they smile,” Nordholm said. “It is a signal we have to look for.”

There are specific reasons SWE visits fourth-grade classrooms.

“It’s a time in elementary school where kids are old enough to switch to more serious academics,” Hewes said.

Fourth graders in particular have enough math and language skills to understand, she said. “With younger kids it’s like a magic show: way more of a wow factor.”

SWE as a club is changing its image, Leon said. “We are really trying to become an inclusive, not exclusive club. Our motto is actually ‘Inspiring Inclusiveness’ right now.”

The club proves this by its numbers: 30 percent of its membership is male.

“SWE is also the largest professional student organization on campus and the Cal Poly section is the largest in the nation,” Hewes said.

The club does the outreach to show the students there are resources, Leon said. “We’re here, we did it. So can you.”

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