Having role models to look to is crucial for student success, but for female engineers, those role models can be few and far between. Only about one in five undergraduate engineering degrees is awarded to a woman, which has contributed to a perception that this field is only for men. National Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (also known as Girl Day) was established to encourage more women to enter the field of engineering by making female role models more visible.
We decided to celebrate Girl Day by asking some of our female students how they were first introduced to engineering, and what they love about it. We hope that as you read their responses below, you will let their passion for creative problem solving and STEM inspire you to introduce engineering to a girl in your life.
You can also see a slideshow of their photos and quotes on our instagram story, or “Girl Day” highlight, at @UCSCEngineering.
I took my first programming class in high school, and I have loved programming ever since! We had to make a game of our choice, which combined my passion for art and my interest in programming. Ever since then, I knew that I could major in computer science and put all of my passions to use. I love computer science because there are so many possibilities of using it alongside my other interests.
Since I was young, I have always been interested in technology, but it was not until my last year of high school that I began to think seriously about computer science and decided to major in it. I believe that CS is one of the best ways to reform the world for the better, and I have always been an advocate for fixing the wide range of issues our current economy and environment is experiencing. Although I am only a freshman at UC Santa Cruz, I know that I would like to pursue something that involves technology to fix worldwide issues. Coding is a great way to express my creativity and interacting skills through the power of my own imagination.
I was introduced to engineering by my parents. I’m incredibly lucky to have two engineers as parents, and they raised me and my sister with math and algorithms. They taught us how to do mental math on long road trips, so we could find our own answers when we asked, “Are we there yet?” They taught us to convert units, so we’d be able to know the temperature anywhere. Most importantly, they taught us to look for ways to solve our own problems, and look for problems to solve in the world, which meant we gravitated naturally to the paths that let us fix these things.
I was introduced to engineering through a class offered at my high school. Most of our projects included creating items with a 3D modeling software then printing them out with a 3D printer. I had so much fun working with my classmates and watching the file on my computer turn into a physical object. I was fascinated with STEM and its endless possibilities.
I am currently the President of SWE (Society of Women Engineers) at UCSC and Peer Staff for the MESA Engineering Program. It was my mom and grandma who first encouraged me to try a computer science class in high school. I originally wanted to go into medicine, but I was lucky I had a really supportive teacher in my Intro to CS class who told me to give CS a shot and introduced me to the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. That summer, my passion for computer science was ignited. What I love most about CS is the chance to create, help people, and solve real-world problems. The thing with going into engineering is that your world of possibilities opens. You can work in virtually any industry you want because computer science/engineering is needed in every industry!
I am an international student from India. I’m currently a junior pursuing a double major in computer science and business management economics. I have always wanted to change the world with inventions and solutions that benefit others’ lives, and that’s why I chose to become an engineer!!
My first exposure to programming was during my AP Computer Science course in the senior year of high school. We learned how to use MIT’s App Inventor to build mobile apps. The class was very enjoyable because it included a lot of critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. As a student, I really enjoy solving complex problems, and coding made me realize that I can convert an idea into a reality. I’m so grateful for this experience and the opportunity to have discovered a new seed of passion. It led me to pursue a degree in computer science because I was amazed at how humans are able to create programs that allow us to connect with people all over the world and solve social issues.
I never really considered being an engineer until I did a two-week coding summer camp at Stanford called “Girl Code.” I was introduced to so many cool women engineers and it helped me realize that I could see myself in this space. Now, I see engineering as a skill set that helps build amazing products and drive impact all around the world. There are no two same days, and I am really grateful to have found something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Both my parents are mechanical engineers and most of my family is in STEM. Growing up my parents usually fixed broken appliances or did car maintenance at home and I was there to hand them tools and watch. When my uncle’s carpal tunnel got worse, I wrote code for him that he dictated to me, which first peaked my interest in programming. I am a computer science major because I enjoy learning about how programs and computers work.
Harshitha Arul Murugan
When I was ten, my dad enrolled me in a coding class, which I did not want to attend. There was only one other girl in the class and I felt extremely left out. Along with this, anytime boys would finish before me, they would assert that they were better coders. I experienced this over and over again until I decided that I was not cut out to pursue a STEM degree… I decided to give [computer science] one last try (when I was 16) by participating in a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program… Seeing a room full of people like me helped my self-confidence and made me feel like I belonged here. The program gave me the support I needed at a crucial time and it inspired me to found a Girls Who Code chapter at my high school. I am still involved with the organization as I want to give back to the community and help girls who may be feeling some of the same things that I used to feel. This motivates me to pursue computer science and excel at it to help other girls believe that they are capable too and that their gender does not put them at a disadvantage.
I first learned about computer science in high school from the Summer Immersion Program hosted by Girls Who Code. On their website, I read stories of other girls from a variety of backgrounds who built a fun project that aligned with their interests. I also learned about the small proportion of female representation in the tech industry and felt motivated to be a part of the movement working to close that gender gap. It was inspiring to see the community that GWC created and I wanted to be part of it. I’m in STEM because there needs to be more input and perspectives from underrepresented groups for the tools that will ultimately serve a massive diverse population. Today’s technologies are only going to expand from here, and I want to be around for that to support others and break stereotypes.
I came into college as a biology student and I decided to take an intro cs class on a whim. I enjoyed the class so I took more cs classes and ended up changing my major to computer science!
Living in Silicon Valley my entire life, I was surrounded by the importance of computers and technology. My introduction to coding and forming algorithms began in elementary school where I would play around with Scratch, Alice, and Lego Mindstorms for fun… My constant technical immersion coupled with an increase in interest made me want to take my first programming course in Java in high school. One of my favorite projects I created in this class was an educational and interactive game aimed to teach aspects of cell biology and cell function. This project was a major turning point in my life as I learned more about self-innovation and creating from the ground up, which motivated me to major in computer science. In college, not only did I grasp the fundamentals of programming, but also I understood the importance of engineering in today’s world. I learned that computing is central for solving problems in a logical and societal context, and is a great opportunity for invention. In the future, I hope to absorb myself more in software development and continue my passion to create.
Coming into college, I was not sure what major I was interested in. I knew that I was a logical thinker and I wanted to challenge myself. After taking an introductory computer science course, I realized that this is a major I would enjoy. I love going to different hackathons and building new projects with my friends! I am part of the CruzHacks organizing team, which is extremely fun and rewarding. I am currently a third year and I believe that I am most passionate about software engineering and natural language processing. I truly believe that real and positive change can be made with the help of technology and engineering!
My introduction to engineering started towards the end of high school when I took basic computer science courses. While it gave me an incredibly brief insight, my real introduction began here at UCSC as I took the required lower divs as a CS undergrad, like data structures and computer systems and assembly language. Although my classes are increasing in difficultly now, I still enjoy computer science because I love problem-solving and am fascinated with its applications.
My interest in Computer Science began in high school when I was first introduced to the NGO world. I became passionately involved in Grameena Vidya (Rural Education), where we collected numerical data about student demographics, academic scores, their attendance, food intake, health data and more… I realized how integral this data was for budgeting, for making decisions and for figuring out ways to solve problems. Observing how the computer scientists, statisticians and teachers at Grameena Vidya worked with this data triggered my interest to pursue computer science. I realized that if we could process data intelligently, we could find solutions to most of the world’s problems. We could not only know what the current status is, but we could also find intelligent patterns and also predict the future. We are in an ever-more connected world today with abundant information at our disposal, and appropriate analytic skills will help make decisions and find solutions to problems on hand.
I’m a 2nd year Computer Science major and I joined engineering because I am passionate about developing technology that can be used for social good and creating solutions for people who really need them. I hope to use my skills in engineering to one day make a direct, impactful contribution to society.
When I was applying to colleges, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I enjoyed the Girls Who Code summer program that I did in my senior year, but I also really liked math and economics.
Fast forward to two years later, and I’m declared as a computer science major! My first computer science class in college was an accelerated programming class, and my professor’s explanations of concepts made the class so interesting! Through the classes that I took, I found that I really liked developing programs to solve challenging problems that teachers would pose. The time I spend trying to figure out bugs in my code, and the times when my code finally runs as expected, are really rewarding! Creating apps, attending and organizing hackathons, and learning about new algorithms reminds me that I love many aspects of the field that I’m studying.
I chose comp sci, honestly, at random. It wasn’t until I felt the joys of finishing a programming assignment and having it actually do what it was supposed to that I found out that comp sci is the major for me. Although I am not really into creating apps and software, I know that there are still so many things I can do with my major in the future, and I am excited to see where it takes me.
After attending the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) 2018, I came back home with an abundance of inspiration and deeper interest in technology. I’m in STEM because I don’t want to be merely a consumer… I believe that the more influential technology becomes, the more impactful it is to have the people building the products and services be demographically representative of the people using it… We have to recognize the underrepresented paradigms of our society and encourage young girls to take up space.
Before transferring to UCSC, I was a fashion model based in New York City, a career that’s seems far and wide from computer science, but because of the diverse careers and sectors in STEM I can embrace my many passions. I’ve adopted the multipotentialite mindset that I can pursue both my interest in technology and maintain my modeling career. With STEM, possibilities and potential are endless.
I first became interested in engineering after taking a computer science course in high school. I realized I really enjoyed seeing how technology can be used to solve problems, and decided to pursue a computer science major.
7:35 AM, August 29, 2014. As I walked into my first class on my first day of high school, I noticed the name Introduction to Java Programming written on the white board. This was my first ever interaction with computer science. Soon, I started learning conditional statements, loops, object oriented programming, graphical user interface, and then there was no looking back…
What makes me continue to pursue computer science and engineering is not only my passion for problem solving but also the fact that women are sadly very underrepresented in tech. I want to be able to change that by not only being a girl in tech, but by also hopefully encouraging and inspiring more girls to pursue education and careers in tech… The way to bring about this change is by continuing to break the glass ceilings while supporting and uplifting each other along the way. The change, believe it or not, starts with you and me.