Those lessons focused on the mathematical underpinnings of the concepts, and were reinforced by hands-on activities in the Brown Design Workshop. There, the students got to work with 3-D printers, laser cutters and a variety of other tools.
Ten Lincoln students signed up for this year’s class (the program’s second) which met once a week for three hours over the past 14 weeks. Last week, the students gathered in the Barus and Holley building to show off some of their projects to parents, Lincoln administrators and Brown faculty members.
For Caroline Morrow, a senior at Lincoln, the opportunity the class offered to apply classroom concepts to actually build things made the strongest impression. “Getting hands-on experience and getting to use the woodworking and metalworking tools was definitely my favorite part of this,” she said.
Lily Martin, a Lincoln sophomore, said the class was a chance to expand beyond her comfort zone.
“I’ve always liked science and math, but I never thought of myself as that good at them — especially science,” she said. “So I took this course to challenge myself and see if I could do it. I really ended up enjoying myself.”
And just as the class that Dugan took inspired her to study engineering, this class may create new engineers of its own. Haley Gomes, a Lincoln sophomore, was particularly inspired by lectures the students heard from Brown professors who work in biomedical engineering.
“I found that really interesting,” she said. “That’s a possibility for me.”
That’s really the point of the class — to keep the door open to engineering as a career path for these students. The class’s organizers hope that the program and ones like it might help to increase the pipeline of women entering engineering fields. Despite some progress in recent decades, women still tend to be underrepresented in STEM fields nationwide. That’s a problem that Estrada hoped to address, but his motivation for participating in the program was also personal.
“I have a younger sister who’s also an engineer,” he said. “We went to the same high school, and I know that she had way more barriers than I did. I thought that was a sin, and I wanted to try to do something about it if I could. This was a great opportunity to do that.”
It was also rewarding, Estrada said, to work with a class of talented young women.
“One of the best parts about teaching a class is seeing the growth of the students during the semester,” Estrada said. “It’s such a privilege to work with such great students. They’re going to be stars in whatever they choose to do.”