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Femineer™: An Innovative and Engaging Program to Empower K-12 Female Students

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Pre-college - Technical Session 7

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pre-College

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Paper Authors


Kristina Rigden California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kristina Rigden is the Director of Outreach Programs and the Women in Engineering Program for the College of Engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona). In her position, she provides several different outreach programming events to engage K-12 female students to pursue STEM majors and/or careers. Dr. Rigden holds a B.A. in Liberal Studies from Cal Poly Pomona, a TESOL certificate, a M.A. in Teaching with a multiple-subject credential and an Ed.D. from the University of Southern California.

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Mariappan Jawaharlal California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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Dr. Mariappan “Jawa” Jawaharlal, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, has more than 20 years of academic, industrial and entrepreneurial experience in engineering and is renowned for his innovative, engaging teaching pedagogy. He received the California State University System’s highest honor, the Wang Family Excellence Outstanding Faculty Award, as well as the Provost’s Award, the Northrop Grumman Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a Fellowship in the Biomimicry Institute. At Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, he was one of the first faculty members recruited to develop a new engineering program with a $100 million donation.

Dr. Jawa is founder and director of Robotics Education through Active Learning (REAL), a K-12 outreach robotics program that educates thousands each year and culminates in the Annual Robot Rally, the nation’s largest robotics event. He also co-founded the Femineers (Female Engineers), which the White House recognized for its empowerment of young women to become engineers.

Since founding an online education company in 1998, Dr. Jawa has developed hundreds of interactive, engrossing learning modules, online tutorials, and CSU course redesigns focusing on bottleneck courses. He has brought many new engineering and robotic products to market from mere concept stages. He also writes columns for The Huffington Post and Medium on various K-12 and higher education topics. A marathon runner and scuba diver, he has completed 25 marathons and has run across the Grand Canyon from rim to rim to rim.

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Nicole Gutzke California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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Ms. Nicole Gutzke is the Outreach Liaison with Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering (CoE). As the Outreach Liaison, she is heavily involved in growing Cal Poly Pomona’s PLTW Summer Core Training Institute into a seven-week event that introduces hundreds of K-12 educators to the latest in STEM-related curriculum. As the Outreach Liaison, Nicole helps to recruit, retain, and graduate hundreds of female engineers each year through outreach events. Nicole also provides support for the CPP CoE Femineers™, a program that was recognized by the White House in 2015.

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California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) College of Engineering Femineer™ Program is a unique and innovative program devoted to inspiring and empowering K-12 female students to pursue STEM majors and careers. Created in 2013, the Femineer™ Program enhances the College of Engineering’s commitment to support underserved populations by recruiting and graduating increased numbers of historically underrepresented students.

The Femineer™ Program was piloted in 2013 with 24 female freshman and sophomore high school students at Fremont Academy of Engineering and Design in Pomona, California. One hundred percent of students completed the three-year Femineer™ Program curriculum. Twenty-two students went on to two- or four-year colleges/universities to study in STEM related fields. Six of those students are at Cal Poly Pomona and four are studying engineering. These results are impressive for one small pilot cohort.

After the pilot study concluded at Fremont Academy, nine local schools implemented the Femineer™ Program in the 2015-2016 school year. Fourteen additional schools, with one school in Kansas, joined the program in the 2016-2017 school year. In addition, San Diego State University and the University of Iowa signed on as affiliate universities. In the 2017-2018 school year, 18 new schools, with two schools in Iowa, joined the Femineer™ Program. With a total of 41 schools and 110 teachers currently implementing the Femineer™ Program, there are around 800 K-12 students participating in the program.

The Femineer™ Program was recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for increasing educational outcomes and opportunities for female Hispanic K-12 students across the country. The program was commended for its focus and goals which include mentoring opportunities for Hispanic K-12 students in STEM subjects, and investing in support for teachers through professional development workshops. In addition, the Femineer™ Program was publicized by US News and World Report.

Rigden, K., & Jawaharlal, M., & Gutzke, N. (2019, April), Femineer™: An Innovative and Engaging Program to Empower K-12 Female Students Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--31766

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