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students working on an engineering project on the left with additional students collaborating at a long wood table on the right. Orange chairs, grey carpet.

Reimagining the Possible to Diversify Engineering

Elizabeth Heck

We advocate for our communities. We make connections with people outside our walls to champion our role in making this world a better place. We get involved.

Students working on laptops in red ergonomic chairs in a large open learning space with flexible seating

National Engineer’s Week is a practice that started in 1951 to call attention to the contributions engineers make to our society. Each year it falls on the week of February 22, George Washington’s birthday, as a way to honor President Washington who is recognized as the nation’s first engineer. It is a time to not only celebrate great engineering accomplishments, but to excite the next generation about the engineering profession.

Each year to celebrate Engineer’s Week, DLR Group hosts STEM outreach events with local schools. Our outreach events are a component of our design philosophy to share our design knowledge. We are always looking for ways to make connections with our local communities to help promote the design industry to the next generation of architects and engineers.

I was not personally aware that structural engineering was a career option when I went to college and only discovered it during my junior year. Additionally, our industry is currently facing a diversity issue. While women make up approximately 47% of the workforce, only about 10% of our construction industry is female. Helping the next generation see themselves in our industry is one way that we can actively help fill the talent pool.

We collaborated with PVHS junior class on a Habitat for Humanity home. Video via Arizona PBS | Cronkite News.

During STEM outreach events, our engineers help students understand what a day in the life looks like. We connect students to the items they see every day in their classroom such as the overhead lights, brick walls, or mechanical vents, to the engineering specialty that designs it.

Bringing these real-world examples to the students really helps them visualize all the ways that engineers enhance the spaces we inhabit every day. This year in Phoenix, we have the opportunity to partner with the Isaac Elementary School District to bring engineering into all of its 6th grade classrooms. A panel of five diverse women emerging engineering professionals will share their passion for the profession and answer questions. We will then challenge the students with an interactive STEM activity: tower building.

Whether we’re reaching new heights with towers or intertwining budding interests with a bridge-building challenge, these outreach programs are just as rewarding as our day-to-day jobs. We get to help these students work together to solve problems and discover new talents and passions. And we often leave just as excited about engineering as the outreach students.


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