Skip to main content
Long Beach Unified School District Logo

A Week at CSULB for 'Engineering Girls'

Thirty-seven girls and mothers from homeless families in Long Beach will spend Aug. 5 to 11 living in California State University, Long Beach student housing to learn about college life and the field of engineering as part of a collaborative educational outreach program with the Long Beach Unified School District and Long Beach City College called "Engineering Girls - It Takes A Village."

Participants include elementary and middle school-grade girls who reside at the Villages at Cabrillo, a Long Beach transitional housing program for homeless veterans, families and youth. Mothers of eight of the girls will accompany their daughters for the week.

Lily Gossage, research associate for CSULB's Office of Engineering Educational Research and Assessment, partnered with Long Beach City College's College Advancement and Economic Development Office, which provided $86,654 from the California Community College Chancellor's Office Career Technical Education Pathways Initiative. Gossage also received $10,000 from the California Space Grant Consortium to support the program.

"I had the opportunity to visit the Villages at Cabrillo, a homeless shelter for families and veterans, last winter as part of the CSULB President's Commission on the Status of Women's adopt-a-family initiative. After that initial visit, I felt deep compassion for the people there," said Gossage.

"Even if my contribution was small, I was compelled to do something, so I returned to speak with some of residents. I found that the parents wanted the best for their young ones despite having to deal with more pressing life priorities," she continued. "Engineering Girls - It Takes a Village was developed to serve the community of children at the Villages. It is also an opportunity to introduce Long Beach Unified School District educators, CSULB and Long Beach City College faculty, staff and college students to a population to which they can contribute positively. The social impact of what we do for these children is great. It takes all of us together. It takes a village."

The LBCC Workforce Development Office facilitated more than $80,000 in state community college funding for the program. During the program, students will receive a welcome to LBCC and an orientation of the Long Beach College Promise program and transfer opportunities.  The Long Beach College Promise provides local students with greater opportunities to complete their higher education through rigorous college preparation, college access and college success.

"LBCC is pleased to support the 'Engineering Girls - It Takes a Village' program as a prime example of the Long Beach College Promise at work," said Marty Alvarado, director of Workforce Programs at LBCC. "This effort builds upon our partnership with LBUSD and our efforts to form promising career pathways in architecture/engineering and underwater robotics for middle school girls by providing students first-hand experience in STEM careers - an industry where women are largely underrepresented - while at the same time raising awareness of the education offerings at both LBCC and CSULB for underserved students."

LBCC will provide two training modules in the fields of architecture and electrical engineering. Adrian Erb, department head of architectural design, will conduct the laser cutting and etching training module. Erb will provide an overview and demonstration of the laser and how it works, and will then guide the students in assembling a framed laser cut project to take home. Scott Frasier, department head of electronics/electricity, will lead the training module on robotics. Frasier will conduct a Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) project where students will build and assemble an ROV. ROVs will be submerged in a swimming pool and students will use the ROVs to pick up items from the bottom of the pool.

In addition, 14 LBUSD teachers and eight CSULB engineering students will mentor and/or stay in the dorms with the girls and parents. The teachers will learn about engineering and science and how to incorporate their knowledge into classroom teaching as part of their professional development.

The girls also will receive mentoring from CSULB faculty and staff and will take part in a variety of engineering and social activities to encourage them to continue their education into college and perhaps consider majoring in engineering-a field where women are underrepresented.

Emphasizing the importance of healthy and happy living, engineering student leaders from the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and others will offer evening and sports activities to provide a well-rounded experience for the girls. Volunteer swim instructors from CSULB's 49er Camp will offer free swim lessons.

During the week, participants attend workshops conducted by faculty from the College of Engineering, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and College of Liberal Arts on aerospace engineering, heliophysics, human factors psychology, prosthetic arms, bridge building, computer programming, biomedical engineering, underwater robotics (at LBCC), aviation, haptics (immersive interactive technology), and even Japanese origami paper folding.

Other activities include visits to CSULB's Japanese Garden, Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and to the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey to take part in a Mars lift-off simulation.

"The Engineering Girls program sends a powerful message to students who may not otherwise have considered the engineering profession," said Jill Baker, assistant superintendent of elementary and K-8 schools for LBUSD. "The participating girls also will be immersed in the college setting, helping them to see themselves as future college students. This type of experience can be transformational for students and their families."

Gossage said the Consolidated State Performance Report from the National Center for Homeless Education noted that more than 220,000 homeless children attended public schools in California in 2011. Poverty is one of the greatest barriers to children succeeding in school. Children from impoverished homes have less access to educational activities and tools during the summer, and in this case, children who are homeless have little to no access.

To further support this event, CSULB College of Engineering faculty, staff and students, President's Commission on the Status of Women, Staff Council and other members of the campus are teaming to provide each girl with a gift card to purchase personal care supplies for the stay.  The CSULB Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the CSULB Research Foundation contributed toward purchasing a backpack and blanket for each girl.

Additional information is available on the Women in Engineering Outreach Program webpage.