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Tracy Huynh

Driving Diversity event inspires the next generation of female automotive engineersJanuary 13, 2020

The second annual Driving Diversity event, held at the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), brought together over 70 female high school students and representatives from McMaster’s vehicle teams.

The students belong to two FIRST Robotics teams: Orbit Robotics, Oakville’s community team, and the Holy Name of Mary College School team in Mississauga. Hosted by McMaster’s EcoCar team, the half-day event encourages girls to explore automotive engineering.

According to Engineers Canada’s 2017 report, women make up only 14.2 per cent of mechanical and 15.3 per cent of electrical engineering university programs.

“Engineering in general is getting a lot better, but there is still that ‘autoshop boys club’ mentality when it comes to automotive engineering,” said Emma Vanslack, a first year iBioMed student, EcoCar team member and organizer of the event. 

Vanslack is an Orbit Robotics alumna and recipient of the $15,000 FIRST scholarship. As one of a handful of girls on the team at the time, she wanted to create a space where girls can be with those who share their experiences. 

“A break from being the minority is really empowering to young women,” she said. 

The girls had a chance to speak with current female engineering students about career paths and extracurricular opportunities at McMaster. There were representatives from McMaster’s EcoCar Team, McMaster Baja Racing, Mac Formula Electric, Women in Engineering Society, and the Bachelors of Technology program. In the afternoon, the students took part in a newspaper chair building contest and tour of the McMaster Automotive Research Centre (MARC). 

“A lot of my friends ask me ‘why robotics?’” said Orbit Robotics member, Shivangi Aggarwal. “They just don't seem to understand it. Coming here today and being surrounded with like-minded women is really inspiring.”