It’s YoWIE season again at UNSW Canberra and this year, it’s bigger than ever.

Almost 100 YoWIEs, or Young Women in Engineering, are at the University to experience three days of fun, hands-on activities that demonstrate where science and maths studies can take them.

Now in its fifth year, the program encompasses elements of aeronautical, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering. The year 9 to 12 students, from across the Canberra and Queanbeyan region, will participate in a range of activities, including designing satellites, building gas turbines, programming robots and constructing earthen dams.

Just 13 per cent of degree-qualified engineers are women. Event organiser and UNSW Canberra aerospace engineer Dr Bianca Capra said that this statistic is why it is important to increase diversity in the field, especially as Australia is heading towards a skilled engineering workforce crisis.

“We need more engineers, yet 50 per cent of the Australian population remains underrepresented in the profession,” Dr Capra said.  

“Increasing the number of women in engineering will not only help us meet our growing demand for engineers but will also bring the diversity of thought required to tackle the engineering challenges of the future.”

Isabel Innes, who participated in the 2020 program as a year 10 student, described the program as a life-changing experience. She returns this year as a SuperYoWIE and will assist with the activities.

“Before joining the program, I wasn't very excited or interested about engineering or STEM,” Isabel said.

“I had a very closed-minded approach to the subject and never, ever thought I would pursue a career in it. But attending YoWIE changed that for me. It helped me see a new perspective on engineering and was an amazing experience to learn and explore different areas of STEM.”

She hopes to pass this passion on to the class of 2021.

“The basic role of a Super YoWIE is to guide the YoWIEs through the program and to show them the different opportunities that STEM and engineering has to offer,” Isabel said.  

“But there is more to the role than that. To me, the role of a Super YoWIE is also to help create an environment for open-minded learning and growth as well as being able to relate and inspire the young women in the program with your own personal experiences.

“From my own personal experience as a YoWIE, I know the amazing impact that the SuperYoWIEs had on my time in the program and I hope that in my role as a Super YoWIE, I can do the same to help the YoWIEs of the future.”

Dr Capra said the YoWIEs are at an important time in their schooling, with some deciding on their Year 11 and 12 subjects and others considering their university options.

“Research shows that girls are disengaging with advanced and intermediate maths and physics at an alarming rate. This is worrying as these are foundational courses for any STEM-based career, be that engineering or not,” she said.

“Research also shows that girls show the same aptitude, ability and interest in maths in years 4 and 8, compared with boys. It’s data like this that highlights why engaging girls early and often in the world of STEM is so important.”

Registrations for YoWIE 2022 will open in March.