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The Firste Fifteen Years

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

K-12 Programs for Girls and Young Women

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1229.1 - 13.1229.11



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Paper Authors

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Joan Kowalski Penn State University - New Kensington


Tracie L. Brockhoff Penn State University - New Kensington

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Tracie L. Brockhoff is the Demonstration and Equipment Specialist in Biology and Chemistry at Penn State New Kensington. She has been employed full time at the campus for 23 years after having earned her Penn State degree in science. Her interests include mentoring students and helping them find their full potential through activities such as the Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology and Engineering (FIRSTE) Program, which she co-founded in 1993 and continues to co-direct. She is also the advisor to the Women Interested in Science Club (WISC) on campus.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The “FIRSTE” Fifteen Years


One ongoing recruitment program is known as the Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology, and Engineering (FIRSTE) Program and is offered to ninth- through eleventh-grade high school girls. This two-day, on-campus event ran for the first time in 1993 and has been offered since on an annual basis; thereby, marking its fifteenth year this summer of 2007. In an effort to encourage young females to consider a nontraditional career path in engineering, engineering technology, or an engineering-related science, the directors of this program continue to procure funding from local industries, professional organizations and established foundations. The twelve selected participants explore “hands on” laboratory activities, tour a technical facility in the region, and meet with women engineers and scientists in a special mentor session.

This past summer, the program directors administered a survey to all past participants who could conceivably be college graduates at this point in time. With just a few lost contacts, the survey managed to successfully reach nearly 100 individuals who were asked to identify their degree earned, university attended and current employment situation. The response rate exceeded at least 30%, with some respondents offering gratitude for their chance at this unique experience in their life. Impressively, many of them not only attended this university, but earned at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, engineering technology, or an engineering-related science.

As a result, the program directors would welcome the opportunity to share these results which reflect a rather high rate of success along with offers of suggestions for ensuring the continuation of this long-lived recruitment program.

The FIRSTE Program

For the past 15 years, the FIRSTE Program has been following a fundamental outline for its agenda (i.e. mentors, tour, hands on session, statistical data, etc.) which is modified thematically every year. In order to best describe the essence of the FIRSTE Program, its detailed information for the most recent year (2007) is provided in the following section.

2007 FIRSTE Program

Although women have made great strides in many career fields, they still lag far behind men in engineering. According to a study presented in the National Center for Education Statistics report from August 2000, the figures for the percentage of women enrolled in engineering and engineering technology programs at the baccalaureate level is 17. Minorities account for an even smaller percentage. At the advanced degree levels, the figures are reduced even further.

Kowalski, J., & Brockhoff, T. L. (2008, June), The Firste Fifteen Years Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4059

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