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Tools to Empower Future Engineers

New Camp Gets Girls Excited About Field With Intro to Saws, Sanders and Drills

By Dan Novak M.Jour. ’20

Girls use power tools at M-Power Tools summer camp

Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle

Counselor Brianna Williams (right), a student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, supervises Lydia Cashin, 12, of Bethesda, Md., as they build Free Little Libraries during the M-Power Tools summer day camp this week.

If the idea of a 12-year-old handling a miter saw gives you pause, it might set you at ease to know it could open the door to an engineering career.

That’s the goal of M-Power Tools, a new summer day camp run this week by the Women in Engineering Program in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, meant to introduce seventh- and eighth-grade girls to the profession through the deafening roar of power tools.

With the supervision of female student mentors from the Clark School, the girls operated circular saws, electric sanders, power drills and nail guns to construct wooden Little Free Libraries. The miniature community book exchanges resemble large birdhouses, and they’re no cinch to build.

Girls use power tools at M-Power Tools summer campThe girls first brainstormed with their peers, sketched designs and built cardboard prototypes, then broke out the wood and heavy-duty equipment and sent sawdust flying.

“Using power tools can create a sense of independence and self-efficacy,” said Becky Kenemuth, the assistant director of Women in Engineering who designed M-Power’s curriculum with the help of mechanical engineering lecturer Vince Nguyen.

“It’s important to teach them skills, but also boost their self-confidence” and encourage them to pursue a STEM education, added Sama Sabihi, a graduate coordinator with Women in Engineering who helped conceive of the camp.

Aside from hands-on learning, the girls listen to daily lectures from student mentors about topics like the engineering design process, various careers in engineering and what it’s like being a woman engineer. On Wednesday, female engineers from Stanley Black & Decker, which donated the tools to M-Power, visited to help the girls construct the libraries and talk about their career experiences.

Nancy Chung ‘16, a mechanical engineer at Stanley Black & Decker, said she didn’t pick up a power drill until her junior year at UMD.

“I think it’s great to get them exposure now,” she said.

The girls plan to install their libraries Friday at Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mt. Rainier, Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, the College Park Aviation Museum and College Park Academy—and they’ll be filled with books about women in STEM.



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