This blog was posted on behalf of Rachel Sutherland, Communications and Media Relations Manager for Intel’s Chandler, Ariz. site. She is responsible for defining and implementing communications strategies to tell the story of Intel’s presence in Arizona. She also contributes media plans and storytelling on national projects that support Intel’s corporate responsibility initiatives. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Ariz.
CHANDLER, Ariz. – Amanda Snodgrass has engineering in her blood — her dad is an electrical engineer and her uncle works for Intel. So when a high school counselor discouraged her from taking engineering classes because “girls shouldn’t be taking those classes,” Snodgrass laughed it off.
Now a chemical engineering sophomore at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Snodgrass is immersed in subjects typically dominated by men. ASU’s undergraduate chemical engineering students were slightly more than a quarter female in fall 2011, and just 17 percent of the entire engineering undergraduate population at ASU is female.
In a classroom setting, Snodgrass said it can be difficult to earn the trust of her male peers, who, she suspects, disregard her input because she’s a woman. “It’s a challenge,” she said. “But then you finish a project early and you’re twiddling your thumbs – that’s when they notice you and respect you.”
This summer, Snodgrass was one of 21 female engineering students who participated in the Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience. The six-week internship program was designed to improve engineering major retention rates by offering students a glimpse into the potential rewards of being an engineer.
One hundred twenty freshmen and sophomore engineering students — male and female – were invited to participate, representing ASU and Chandler-Gilbert Community College in equal numbers. Students and mentors gathered for four hours a day, five days a week for six weeks in a Chandler Hilton ballroom. The students received tools and support to build robots, design apps, network with professionals and explore engineering career paths.
Lori Bryant, a retired director of engineering at Intel, left her home in Denver for seven weeks to mentor students in the IUEE program in Arizona. She said she wanted to send a message to engineering hopefuls that “we want to see you graduate — to get your degrees and change the world.”
Female students like Snodgrass and Tamara Dunbarr, a 33-year-old mother of two, stand a much better chance of achieving that goal with the acceptance of their male counterparts. At IUEE, both noted an absence of the usual distrust they’ve come to expect from some of their peers.
“Here it is a meritocracy,” Dunbarr said. She added that, as the only female in many of her CGCC classes, it was refreshing to work alongside more female students and mentors. “The teams were really supportive and played up everyone’s strengths. As long as you show inquiry, you’ll do well.”
Dunbarr was recruited straight out of high school for an IT position during the dot-com boom. After her father died, Dunbarr saw a plaque on his desk that read, “I am always learning.” The message resonated and she decided to quit her job and enroll in engineering classes. “I want to build things,” she said of her ambition to become an aerospace engineer.
Snodgrass and Dunbarr agreed that the engineering world could use more women within its ranks. “Women communicate better than men, in general,” Dunbarr said. “They can bridge the gap between communicating technical ideas and speaking about business.”
Snodgrass said she believes women are better at focusing and staying on task. “When there’s a study session for a class, it’s always a girl who organizes it,” she said.
IUEE’s intensive learning environment provides hands-on technical engineering experience through a variety of technical skill development activities, team-based project work, competitions, professional skill development, networking and social activities.
The program was designed to support Intel’s efforts to help produce more engineering graduates in the U.S. to meet demand for highly skilled workers. Part of that strategy includes doubling the number of interns at Intel. IUEE allows students to experience the real-world environment and networking opportunities of an internship in a condensed, convenient off-site format.
IUEE launched this summer at six locations near select Intel sites including Chandler, Ariz., Folsom, Calif., Columbia, S.C., Hillsboro, Ore., Austin, Texas and Rio Rancho, N.M.
Closing festivities and awards ceremonies took place Friday at The Castle at Ashley Manor in Chandler. The event included a luncheon with guest speaker Michele St. Louis-Weber, an Intel microprocessor factory manager.
Students received a stipend and a scholarship from Intel for successfully completing the program.