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  5. Pieper Foundation awards support outreach for future female engineers

Pieper Foundation awards support outreach for future female engineers

Two UW-Madison undergraduate projects that received grants from the Pieper Servant Leadership Fund in 2014 will use their awards to reach out to the female engineers of the future. 

Supported by the Suzanne and Richard Pieper Family Foundation and the Student Leadership Center, the award aims to support College of Engineering students who undertake service-learning and community outreach projects that benefit the least privileged. Both of the funded projects in 2014 will be led by members of the UW-Madison student chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

Megan Nelson, a sophomore majoring in civil and environmental engineering, and Lori Bierman, a senior in industrial and systems engineering, helped secure $1,500 to support the long-running Engineering Tomorrow’s Careers (ETC) camp. The overnight brings about 80 female high-school students to the UW-Madison campus each year to spend a week learning about all different facets of engineering education and careers.

Kara Novotny, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, received $1,000 to support a new outreach effort, the Women in Engineering and Computer Science Tie Blanket Project. During the one-day event, about 100 female UW-Madison students in engineering or computer science majors would gather together to make blankets for needy people while listening to a talk from a woman engineer from a local company. In the short term, the event would provide about 100 blankets to donate to local shelters and hospitals. In the long run, Novotny says, it would create more dialogue among different engineering organizations on campus and teach students about the importance of balancing career and community service.

While ETC Camp has been going for 22 years, Nelson and Bierman say SWE wants to help more students access the camp. "We've had more than double the requests for financial aid this year than we've had in any previous year,” Bierman says. The money from their Pieper Foundation award will directly support partial scholarships for 10 to 12 campers who otherwise might not be able to afford it.

Overall demand for ETC Camp remains strong. Typically, there’s a waitlist of 15 to 20 students, Nelson says. And it still can play a crucial role for high-school students who want greater exposure to engineering. "Many of our campers who apply have had experience with engineering in their high schools, but others haven't,” she adds.

As Nelson and Bierman work to make ETC Camp more accessible for low-income students, Novotny is planning to hold her first Women in Engineering and Computer Science Tie Blanket Project in a couple of months. 

"I want to show that you can be an engineer with a full workload but still give back, despite having so much on your plate,” Novotny says. 

Scott Gordon