Almost 100 YoWIEs (or Young Women in Engineering) are at UNSW Canberra this week for three days of fun, hands-on activities that demonstrate where studying science and maths can take them.  

The program, now in its sixth year, includes elements of aeronautical, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering.  

The year 9-12 students have come from across the country to participate in a range of activities, including flight dynamics, robotics and space engineering.  

As Australia heads towards a skilled engineering workforce crisis, event organiser and aerospace engineering Dr Bianca Capra said it was more important than ever to increase diversity in the field.  

“While the looming skills crisis is a concern, we anticipate an engineering boom with lots of jobs on the horizon, and we need everyone to participate,” she said. 

“Less than 13 per cent of degree-qualified engineers in Australia are female. Not only does this mean that 50 per cent of our population is underrepresented in the profession, but we can only face the big engineering challenges of the future with teams that represent all of society – and this means more women at the design table.” 

Dr Capra said the lack of visible engineering role models is part of the problem.  

YoWIEs construct a dam as part of the program.
YoWIEs construct a dam as part of the program.

“At YoWIE, young women experience the creativity, teamwork, and skills engineers use daily, but just as importantly, they see and learn from the diverse role models in our team,” she said. 

Since its inception in 2017, 380 girls have attended the free program. As the first cohorts of YoWIEs have now completed year 12, event organiser Dr Bianca Capra has been thrilled to see some commence their university studies as the next generation of engineers. 

Catriona Cochrane is now a second-year electrical engineering student at UNSW Canberra after participating in YoWIE 2017.  

I was offered the opportunity by one of my science teachers who noticed my already established interest in STEM-related activities,” Catriona said.  
“I think YoWIE is a brilliant opportunity, for any and all young women as a chance to learn and interact with a field that not many people outside of it can tell them accurately about.  

“While YoWIE didn’t necessarily begin my interest in engineering it certainly cemented the career I wanted to go into and the university that I wanted to learn at.”