Students are shown how to assemble an engine to learn about mechanical engineering.
YoWIE activities are designed to expose students to a wide variety of engineering fields, including mechanical, civil, software and aeronautical. Source: UNSW Canberra

UNSW Canberra is hosting more than 100 YoWIEs (Young Women in Engineering) this week, to make sure that, unlike the mystical creature, women in engineering are easy to spot.

The female students, from years 9-12, will participate in three action-packed days where they will get to experience what it’s like to work in engineering and learn about the real-world impact that can have.

The girls will be introduced to a wide range of engineering fields, including aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and civil engineering.

One of the activities will see girls program robots to complete several tasks. They will become accustomed to three different types of robots, all of which can navigate, sense colour and distances, and some can also speak.

Using software engineering skills, the girls will program the robots to navigate a Lego maze and even compete in a game of robot hockey.

At the other end of the engineering spectrum, the girls will create their own earthen dam from natural materials such as clay, rock and soil. They will develop their own concrete mix, build the dam and then test its ability to hold water, all the while learning some of the key principles of civil engineering.

A student participating in the YoWIE program examines a turbine.
Since its inception, more than 470 girls have participated in YoWIE. Source: UNSW Canberra

By experiencing the variety of opportunities available in engineering, the girls will hopefully be inspired to pursue a career in an incredibly rewarding field.

UNSW Canberra Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering and Deputy Head of School Neda Aboutorab, who serves as a YoWIE co-chair, said one of the most pleasing aspects of the program was welcoming past YoWIEs to the university as students.

“We have 16 engineering students currently enrolled at UNSW Canberra, with several more in other programs, who participated in the YoWIE program while they were at school,” Associate Professor Aboutorab said.

“This shows us the program is working and is demonstrating to girls that engineering presents a realistic and rewarding career pathway.

“Many of the jobs of the future will require STEM skills and we need more women represented in these fields to continue to drive change.

“Women represent only 18 per cent of enrolments in university engineering courses, so we still have a lot of work to do, but spending time with these young women always reinforces how bright the future can be.”

Two students assemble an engine as part of a YoWIE activity.
Canberra students Elizabeth Shaw and Charlotte Weir reconstruct an engine as part of a previous YoWIE program at UNSW Canberra. Source: UNSW Canberra

Since its inception in 2017, more than 470 girls from across Australia have participated in the YoWIE program.

UNSW Canberra Engineering Operations Manager and YoWIE co-chair Matt Barrett said this year will see 99 new students attend the program, with six returning for a second visit.

“In addition to the hands-on engineering activities, the girls will also hear from current female engineering students who will share their university experiences,” Mr Barrett said.

“They will also receive lots of valuable information to help them make the transition from school to university.”

More information about the program can be found at