The FemGineers

At Heritage Middle School in Livingston NJ, the concept of the “FemGineers”, the all female design and engineering team happened by accident:  Two sign up lists were placed on a lab table, one for the Technology Student Association, the other for the National Engineers’ Week Future City Competition.  Students signed up during the day in their technology education class and at the end of the day I reviewed the lists.  I found that on the Future City sign up sheet, all but one student were female.  I approached the eighth grade boy and asked him if he did what he meant to do.  Being an eighth grade boy, he quickly switched to the TSA team.

The first meeting of the Future City team was held and before long, nine eighth graders realized “We’re all girls.”  They quickly embraced the concept, choosing a name and even designing a logo.  The first year, they competed they earned a seventh place finish and an honorable mention at the New Jersey Regional.  The concept of the FemGineers was off the ground.  Building and district administration really supported the concept.  They talked it up at parent meetings and student activity fairs.

These young ladies had found a new home:  the technology education lab.  They wasted no time in telling me that the room reminded them of “grandpa’s basement”…dirty, machines everywhere, nothing to make you feel welcome.  They suggested as a start that they could repaint the door with a technology related mural.  They did so, and added a splash of color to an otherwise monotone room.

The next year, the club grew to more than 30 girls.  They again competed in the Future City challenge and placed 2nd with other honorable mentions.  These girls too said that they would never have “just wandered in” to the technology lab if they did not have a friend who told them about it.  When I asked what we should do, again, they wanted to paint murals on the walls, which they did, but they had another novel idea:  “The Innovation Station”.  They wanted to design an area that you could see from the door that would invite people into the room.  At that time, there was simply drill presses and scroll saws.  The Innovation Station would have couches, ottomans, beanbag chairs and large tables that would have dry erase surfaces so you could draw ideas out in an innovative setting.

Through the use of student input and a suspension of what I thought I knew about gender equity, we were able to create an innovative, creative environment that is student focused and gender neutral.  It is about so much more than simply painting it pink.

You can read more about the FemGineers at:

Building Utopia: You Go Girl!

We Built This City

FemGineers Video


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