Operation Minerva By Rachel Novinger

Only 18% of engineers in Canada are women. They are told that “women are not suited for the engineering field,” and that “men are more capable to be engineers,” when in reality, women are just as capable. There is an international stereotype linking engineering to being a more masculine and virile profession; teaching girls and women that they don’t belong within the field and that they will not be accepted within it despite bearing the required skills. High schools and universities around the world are working together to encourage and raise more girls to follow their engineering ambition and pursue in the field that they want no matter which gender may be linked to it. In a recent study at Stanford university, one of the top universities in the world, it was found that women performed just as well as men did within an engineering office, but women were more likely to switch to a different major due to the mentality that their skills are not good enough, and that they are not fit for the job. Our generation is trying to change the unfairness that we currently face, by teaching girls at a young age that they should follow their desired future employment.

Operation Minerva does just that; the program takes grade eight girls from different parts of Alberta to participate in a full day job shadowing experience. The girls are placed in companies across their city to shadow a mentor working at an office in the scientific field. As a part of the experience, girls get to see what people in the engineering field and females in particular do everyday. The purpose of this is to inspire girls to be engineers, promoting the need for an increase in the amount of female engineers there are. The day is jam packed with entertaining and informative activities and presentations about the company, in addition to the opportunity to shadow a worker throughout their daily tasks in the field.

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in Operation Minerva, having been selected by my science teacher to represent my school at the program. The day began at the Fish Creek Library, where I was given the opportunity to meet with other like minded girls who were living in the vicinity. We also met the leaders of this program, who were all incredibly kind and welcoming people. Here, we were given a brief explanation of the activities that would be partake throughout the day and were also provided reusable gift bags. Once we arrived in downtown, we were separated into groups, each one given a company to shadow. It was my pleasure to be working in this environment especially with such a great group of peers, all of whom were quite intelligent and easy to talk to/cooperate with. My group and I were placed within the office of AP Dynamics, which is a vibrations and rotating equipment/stress analysis for pipeline company. It is a lot more exciting than it sounds. We started the day with an engaging powerpoint of what they do and how they work in the office. Each female engineer in the office gave a brief explanation of their role and what inspired them to become an engineer.

We were then assigned to do an icebreaker activity to get into the feel of engineering. We were told to make the largest free-standing structure that we could using nothing but pipe cleaners. In groups of three, including one of the engineers in training(E-I-T’s) we had to work together to find ways to connect and build the structure. Mostly relying on the E-I-T’s minds, we began building, and we started with a strong base to support the building. To our surprise, we were then told that we had to use only one hand and that we only had three minutes left as opposed to seven previously promised. This exercise was given with the goal of conveying the unpredictable nature of engineering wherein workers must be able to work efficiently especially in high stress conditions in which anything can happen.

For the rest of the day, we went around in pairs to the different roles of the women in the office to see their daily tasks. We were introduced to the fascinating world of engineering and how much precious time and work is put into everything that needs to happen. I was shown and was able to experiment with the tools they use in the field to fix vibration and stress on different pipelines. This was a captivating and inspiring concept to participate in because it gave me an idea of what I would like to pursue and study during my time in university. AP Dynamics is an excellent company that specifies in analysis and focuses towards quality and customer service. I could not have been placed in a better office to fully understand what goes on behind closed doors in engineering.

At the end of the day we were spoken to by the CEO of AP Dynamics, who was equally as kind and welcoming just as the other staff. He took the time and effort to come talk to our group about how he is encouraging us to pursue in sciences. This was a reality check of how the world is developing to support women more. They worked hard in ensuring that we, as girls, were comfortable to express ourselves and learn as we wish. In conclusion, Operation Minerva was an outstanding and captivating experience that I would encourage all future grade eight girls to participate in. It is structured in such a way that it allows for fun while also inspiring and informing young girls such as myself. It exceeds its purpose by showing girls that they can be powerful and if they believe in themselves, they can raise the amount of female engineers in office that we need.

Operation Minerva 2016

I am in the Red shirt third from the right, beside the girl with the purple cardigan. My name is Rachel Novinger and I attend John Ware Junior High school