Connecting how mundane objects ─ like chalk ─ are a product of mining is part of our outreach efforts to reveal the minerals mined by customers around the world make up the fabric of our daily lives. Using chalk for an icebreaker activity is how our team began its latest annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day event.
Inspiring tomorrow’s engineers
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (Girl Day) helps focus a growing movement to inspire girls’ futures so they learn they have a place in engineering a better world. Professionals across the U.S. share their knowledge, experience ─ and fun ─ to give girls the chance to think like an engineer.
Girl Day has become an annual event on the Thursday of Engineers Week, a week-long celebration of how engineers make a difference in our world and part of a year-round commitment to inspire tomorrow’s engineers.
Since its beginning in 1951, Engineers Week has grown into a coalition of more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies and more than 50 corporations and government agencies. These groups are dedicated to raising public awareness of engineering and promoting recognition of the importance of a technical education in science, technology and mathematics.
Both programs are organized by DiscoverE, formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation. The organization helps unite, mobilize and support the engineering and technology volunteer communities to increase their collaborative footprint in K-12 education and celebrate with the public as it discovers the value of engineering education and careers.
Each year the organization works with schools, businesses and community groups across the U.S. to observe and celebrate these annual events.
“Komatsu’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day came out of an early recognition that we could play a role in inspiring the development of a more diverse workforce,” said Manager – Social Responsibility Cathy Stagmer. “When we started there were very few organizations in the city focusing on introducing young women to STEM careers. Our employees have always been eager to share their passion for engineering and the industry with students in the community and this particular event has become a favorite for many. There’s great satisfaction in helping a student discover their own passions and interests.”
Role models for girls
Each year our employees work with students in diverse ways to inspire the next generation of talent to become engineers. For Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, our events showcase women in a wide range of STEM professions at Komatsu, to share how STEM principles are part of their everyday work.
These events give students the opportunity to interact with STEM professionals, as well as students from different schools. While they expand their network of people who share a common interest in STEM, they engage in hands-on activities that push them to think like an engineer.
At our Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. facility, this year our engineers spent the day with a group of students from several nearby schools, starting their day learning how mining impacts their daily lives. Then they had the opportunity to develop questions and interview a panel of Komatsu employees who shared their experiences and advice on what it’s like for a woman in a STEM career.
In the Automation Lab, students learned how robotics and automation are playing a critical role in the future of mining and even had the opportunity to take the controls of our scale 4100XPC shovel.
Their creative thinking was put to the test as they broke into teams for a pipe cleaner building challenge, where the teams competed to design and build the tallest structure out of pipe cleaners. To provide a touch of reality to the situation, our engineers would surprise them with amendments to the challenge, replicating some of the critical challenges engineers face in their real-life roles. Whether it was having to work with only one hand to symbolize a reduced workforce or to work without speaking to each other to represent communication challenges that can arise with language barriers, the students learned to adapt to changing parameters.
Engineer III and Team Leader Megan Scheppa said, “I think it’s important for them to see what an engineer’s day would be like and get them interested in what we’re doing.”
Our employees worked with the students throughout the day and offered to be available into the future as these students start their way on a STEM career.
“Nothing that comes easy is valued and appreciated,” said Lead Engineer Kaonou Latham. “Pursuing a STEM career is going to be one of the most challenging tasks you will ever undertake. It is a rewarding career where you can apply your skills to take your ideas and designs and make them a reality that can help solve problems all over the world.”
Women in STEM careers
In the workforce, only 13 percent of engineers are women, according to the Society of Women Engineers. We’re working in our communities to increase that number through programs like Engineering Week and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
“I think there's a very large gap that we've seen when it comes to women going into STEM careers,” said Lead Engineer - Advanced Automation Wes Taylor, “and some of that, I think for me, was an introduction and understanding of what those careers look like.
“I think outreach programs, mentorships, even internships, are all great ways to introduce kids and students to these types of careers.”
“I work with the next generation of women engineers coming through the system,” said Manager – Shovel CPS – Engineering Victoria Flenard. “I think it is our job, our duty, to provide that knowledge and expertise back to anyone coming in.”
We recognize the important role we can play in encouraging the next generation of innovative and skilled STEM professionals. Mentoring in the classroom, job shadowing, factory tours, or mentoring robotics teams are just some of the other outreach Komatsu employees are involved in to work with students and encourage kids of all genders and backgrounds to participate in STEM programs. Introducing today’s students to the wide range of possibilities in STEM careers will help all of us as they create new ways of doing things and explore new technologies.
Thank you to all our employees that made this day possible and continue to help us develop future generations of talent.