Department of Design and Construction311Search all websites

September 22, 2015

STEAM Hosts the First Annual Introduce a Girl to Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Day

Girls sitting at a table and working on assignments

The New York City Department of Design and Construction hosted young women from the Young Girls Leadership High School in Queens and from P.S./I.S. 18 middle school at DDC’s first Annual Introduce a Girl to Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Day. Activities consisted of a hands-on engineering workshop, a Building Information Management (BIM) presentation, and panel discussion with women currently working in these fields. Students were also introduced to the Engineering Design Process where they learned to understand an engineering problem. They investigated and gathered details and learned about what others had done, explored possible materials or processes that can be used to create a design. They also come up with different ways to solve the problem and use their creativity. They figured out the details of design, discussed how it would work, drew diagrams, listed materials and decided how to test, build, and fix small problems and evaluate how the final design. They also made changes to the design based on testing. Lastly they shared the solution with other students, explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the solution.

The hands on workshop involved the designing, building, and testing of bridge trusses. This was a modified version of the activity found in many colleges that offer civil engineering programs. The workshop, led by DDC STEAM program coordinator Ershaun Harris, focused on getting the young women to think about how they might improve upon existing truss designs. The students were split into groups based upon their school level. The middle school students were given simpler tasks that focused on designing and understanding the purposes of bridge trusses. A majority of the students were able to produce a functioning bridge, and at the end of the day they were all able to explain what a truss bridge is and how forces act upon them. The high school students were pushed more to both understand and build multiple bridges. The goal was to impress upon them how working engineers constantly test and retest prototype designs to come up with their final product. 

The BIM presentation, led by DDC’s Safiy Abdur-Rahman, was also done in two groups. Middle school students were shown the basics of Revit and AutoCAD architectural design programs and how architects use these programs to design buildings, bridges and various other construction projects. The high school students were introduced to more advanced designs. The young women asked Safiy about the many different uses of Revit and how it compared to the old fashioned method of using pencil and paper. Safiy answered all of their questions and spoke to them about considering architecture as a future career.

The panel discussion was an opportunity for the young women to meet professional women in the three fields and ask them about how they came to be in their chosen professions and what advice they would give about how to pursue these careers. There were four panelists:

  • Starlene Scott, Deputy Director of Build It Back, who told the young women about her educational and personal trajectory and impressed upon them that hard work and perseverance can overcome any obstacle. She told the students to push their limits and aim for the stars.
  • Gabriela Lara, an infrastructure bridge design engineer, spoke about her various projects and how she is inspired to improve upon existing structures. She told the young women to always be inquisitive and push themselves to make their environments better.
  • Einah Reza M. Pelaez, a transportation engineer at HDR and V.P. of the Society of Women Engineers’ NY chapter, told the young women about her work and how she is inspired to make the city she calls home a better, safer place on day at a time. She impressed upon the young women that as an engineer they can make a big difference in everything they do.
  • Xenia Diente, Deputy Director of the Percent for Art Program at DDC, told the young women how much she loved art and was determined to beautify DDC’s construction sites with locally produced artwork. She explained how crucial it is for government to maintain good relations with the local communities and how they can create a more unified, beautiful world by combining what they are passionate about with a STEAM career.