Women seem to be breaking the glass ceiling, and the women of engineering are building the future. SWENext is the national Society of Women Engineers, and HR has their own chapter.
For more than six decades, this honor society has recognized a niche and built a following in schools around the country. According to the national mission statement, SWENext “is centered around a passion for our members’ success and continues to evolve with the challenges and opportunities reflected in today’s exciting engineering and technology specialties.” The number of attendees at the last Women in Engineering conference boasted 8,539 members, in 2016 according to SWENext national.
President and founder, Gretchen Becker, sophomore, started this club in the spring of 2018. “I started this club because I wanted to get more girls in high school interested in engineering,” she said. When asked what pulled Becker to the innovation in science, she said, “The opportunities to help people. There are so many fields and so many places engineering can be used to better society.”
This program is overseen by Stephanie Riddle, an advanced math teacher at Highlands Ranch. She teaches everything from sophomore Algebra II to senior AP Calculus BC, and after school and during access, she leads women through engineering. HR’s chapter is a group of women who all share common interests in science and engineering, although according to the club, boys are welcome as well.
Yearly awards are given out by influential groups such as Toyota, Exxon Mobil, The National Security Agency, and Johns Hopkins, according to the SWENext 2016 report. All of these awards are won by SWENext projects and initiatives based on real world problems with science and engineering.
“This year Highlands Ranch SWENext is working on a project involving composting and gardening with younger kids in the community,” said Anna Smith, sophomore. “We recently won $1,000 to help us implement this project in the upcoming school year.” SWENext not only shares the innovation of engineering with each other, but with the community at large.
Smith goes on to describe the broad spectrum of engineering. “I feel like people usually associate engineering and STEM with things like robotics and technology,” Smith said. SWENext incorporates these things, but also exceeds the stereotype definition. “I’ve seen innovation in new environmental ideas. Our project involves the community, it involves current events in the world, and it combines it with science. It’s really exciting to see so many things I love coming together in engineering,” Smith said with a grin.
Noelle Harff, Social Media Editor