For four years, UNSW Canberra’s YoWIE (Young Women In Engineering) program has inspired high school girls to think about where their maths and science studies could take them.

Kathryn Liston was part of the first group of YoWIEs in 2017 and she returns this year as a SuperYoWIE – a mentor to the latest group.

“It was a chance to do it all again,” Kathryn said.

“As a mentor, I can actually share the types of things I’m doing and how I got to be where I am.”

Kathryn’s YoWIE journey has come full circle. She has just finished Year 12 and she will commence her mechanical engineering degree at UNSW Canberra in 2020.

“I hadn’t really thought of engineering until doing YoWIE, so it really sparked my interest,” Kathryn said.

“I started making sure I was doing the subjects I needed to, and I just really grew to love it.”

Kathryn was one of 20 students to participate in the first YoWIE program. In 2020, that number has grown to 80 students.

YoWIE Siobhan Perry reassembles a lawn mower engine with UNSW Canberra Engineering Professor Sean O'Byrne. 

 YoWIE organiser and aeronautical engineer Dr Bianca Capra said it was wonderful to see so many young women show an interest in the profession.

“2020 was our biggest YoWIE yet, and from the laughter and excitement coming from the activities I think it was also a huge success,” Dr Capra said.

“It was wonderful to have so many passionate young women at UNSW Canberra getting involved with engineering, making new friends, learning new skills and asking us some really technically challenging questions.  

“Women remain underrepresented in engineering, but I am hopeful, given the passion I saw over the last three days, that we will be seeing some of these YoWIEs again in engineering schools across Australia.”

Queanbeyan High School student Emily Griffiths’ interest in maths and science subjects led her to YoWIE and the program opened her eyes to the possibilities of engineering.

“I’ve learnt that there are so many pathways that you can take under engineering,” Emily said.

“There’s civil engineering, mechanical, electrical, and there’s just so many different things you can do. My favourite engineering pathway would be aeronautical. If I was to study aeronautical at university, I could possibly go into designing and building planes.”

Emily Griffiths was inspired to see how many career options there were for engineers.

 Emily said it was also a great opportunity to connect with like-minded students.

“I struggle at school with meeting new people, but being at YoWIE has made me come out of my comfort zone a lot more and it’s easier to talk to new people.”

Her advice for other aspiring YoWIEs?

“Do it – by all means. If you’re scared, if you’re nervous about it, just do it because it’ll be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.”

YoWIE is a free program held each January at UNSW Canberra. Registrations for 2021 open soon. More information is available here.