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Future Women Engineers Learn School, Life Lessons During Internship

After a four-week summer internship, 15 engineering hopefuls will soon start their first year at Old Dominion University. The students took part in the Early Engineering Advantage Program for Women (eEAPw), which is designed to enhance future academic and career opportunities in engineering. The program is now in its eighth year at ODU. Participants this year did the bulk of their work at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) under the director of Research Director John Sokolowski and GIS Lab Manager Will Richards.

The purpose of the program , which is funded by a grant from the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, is to introduce female students to traditionally male-dominated sciences, according to Bev Forbes, program administrator.

"It promotes socialization among incoming students, and we hope that will promote retention because of these connections," Forbes said, "so when they get into classes that are male-dominated, there is a connection."

Forbes, who is the ODU Career Management Center's liaison to the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, said the program is one of the keys to the university's traditionally strong number of female science majors. She noted that there was a record number of applications this summer.

"Hopefully we can expand this to other fields," Forbes said.

The incoming freshmen also gained experience this summer by taking trips to places like the Lockheed Martin Center for Innovation, and attending lectures by current ODU engineering students and faculty. Kierra Turner, a soon-to-be computer engineering major from Hampton, said she enjoyed her time building Martian rovers, troubleshooting computer problems and working with modeling and simulation videos. She said the friendships she made with the other students and the time management skills she learned would help immensely as she begins her freshman year.

"I loved it," Turner said. "I was able to meet people before I got here, and got an early taste of my major. I benefitted from a lot of it."

Another program participant, Brittany Garman, of Suffolk, plans to study mechanical engineering. She was most impressed with the Lockheed tour. "At Lockheed we got to explore job opportunities in engineering and other really neat things," she said. "It was beneficial in so many ways."

Natasha Fuhlendorf plans to study computer engineering. The Chesapeake native liked the early exposure to college life and its academic rigors. "It was great meeting current students for tips on a successful college career," she said. "This is a good way to branch out and make good connections with people I'll be spending a lot of time around."

All three of the women said they enjoyed the camaraderie forged during their four weeks together, and that they looked forward to seeing each other in classes.

This article was posted on: August 20, 2008

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