What is the difference between a structural engineer and an architect? What do they do? Can girls succeed as engineers and architects? How do you start on a career designing buildings?
Those were just some of the questions answered at the first Young Women @ TT open house held on Columbus Day, October 13 in our New York office. Sponsored by the New York Women @ TT (W@TT) community, the event was designed to introduce girls in grades nine to 12 to careers in architecture and structural engineering and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.
“Our W@TT group recognized the need for more girls to be exposed to engineering and architecture as potentially challenging careers,” Vice Chairman Aine Brazil said. “We decided to invite a group of high school girls to our office to see what we do and the opportunities that are available to them. It is our hope that this event was a small step forward in bringing more smart, strong women into our industry.”
Attending the half-day program were 17 girls, who were either the daughter of one of the firm’s clients, a relative or friend of a Thornton Tomasetti employee or who had been invited through an area school. The program began with a welcome address from Aine, followed by an introduction to the AEC professions, which was organized by Senior Engineer Karen Nelson. The students had the opportunity to hear first-hand what it is like to be a structural engineer and an architect from Project Engineer Natalie Wolfram and Senior Designer Neda Ainehchi, respectively.
The students broke up into smaller groups and took a tour of the office, led by Senior Engineer Jamie Kirkland and engineers Marissa Peragine, Jennifer Tsang and Virginie Arnaud. Along the way, they stopped at the desks of Computational Designer Anne Waelkens, Engineer Jane Zellar, Senior Associate Cori Kwitkin, Senior Engineer Grace Lee, Natalie and Neda, who each explained to the students what they were working on and how it fits into the project overall.
One of the highlights of the visit was the group activity. The students were provided with building “materials,” such as gumdrops, marshmallows, wood skewers, paper plates and rubber bands, and asked to create a structure. They then tested how much weight the structures could support using a unit of measurement the students could relate to— iPhones. Giving the students help and advice were Jamie, Marissa, Jennifer and Virginie. “There was interest in the program being longer to allow the students more time for the hands-on activity,” Engineer Stephanie Waterman, who was charged with the overall planning and organization of the event, said.
Other contributors to the event were Project Engineer Christina Chu and Senior Principal Hi Sun Choi, who served in an advisory role; Grace and Senior Engineer Samantha Beaulac, who handled marketing; and Executive Assistant Vanessa Rodriguez, who provided administrative support.
“The feedback we got was very positive, and it was wonderful to see how interested the young women were in the engineering profession,” Stephanie said. “We are hoping to make this an annual event.”
— Cynthia Hoffman, Editor
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