Boston University

Optical Characterization and Nanophotonics Laboratory








Women in Engineering

Members: Anna K. Swan


Alumni: Cynthia A. Brossman, Cassandra A. Browning, Megan Elizabeth Lopes, Jessica Lai Surn Louie, Olga Sergeyevna Nikolayeva, Karen Spaulding, Erica J. Thrall, Diem Minh Tran


Four Schools for Women in Engineering (WIE) is a consortium of four engineering colleges in Massachusetts (MA) united in commitment to gender equity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Each partner institution Northeastern University (NU), Boston University (BU), Tufts University (Tufts) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has a strong record of K-12 outreach and program delivery, K-12 teacher training and programming for girls and women in STEM related areas. Each partner institutions brings varied strengths and successes to the collaboration. By joining forces we hope to develop a model to demonstrate how engineering concepts become part of the middle school curriculum in ways that encourage girls as well as boys to continue along the engineering pathway.

As an important step toward achieving this mission, we are developing and implementing a unique intervention system centered around highly-trained STEM Teams consisting of all-female engineering faculty, students, teachers and practitioners. STEM Teams including middle school teachers train together and then utilize their unique strengths to best implement the curriculum in eight different public school districts in the greater-Boston area. The STEM Teams educate middle school teachers about engineering and gender-inclusive practices in addition to serving as role models in the middle school classrooms.

The present situation in MA is opportune for developing this beneficial intervention system since the MA Department of Education recently adopted the Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks. Beginning in September 2001, MA became the first state in the nation to introduce engineering as part of mandated PreK-12 education frameworks. These frameworks reflect achievable and age appropriate learning standards that will provide strong background knowledge for students. In the middle schools, questions testing the engineering frameworks were incorporated into the compulsory Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) in 2002.

STEM Teams help middle schools implement the new engineering strand of the Massachusetts Frameworks. STEM Teams also help middle school teachers prepare students for the engineering strand MCAS exams. Simultaneously, STEM Teams serve to build the conviction among the middle school students that engineering is an appropriate career choice for females. An important feature of the STEM Team concept is that each team is composed of women only, yet this attribute is not announced to the students prior the team's arrival. The goal is that STEM Teams composed solely of females will demonstrate to girls and boys that women do engineering. Some anticipated project outcomes are: Girls and boys in implementation classrooms will think differently about engineering and will understand that engineering is not just for boys; they will score higher on the engineering strand items in the MCAS, than children in the same school before the implementation of STEM Team support; and participating teachers will feel comfortable with these materials and will look forward to working with them.

Over the three-year program, the intervention systems will be finely tuned for national dissemination. The STEM Teams approach is highly replicable at low cost. However, members need to be educated about national science standards, age-appropriate and gender-inclusive curriculum activities, serving as positive role models, and other issues pertaining to encouraging middle school girls in the STEM fields. This training will be available through a hard copy manual, the web, and because so many middle schools do not have convenient access to the Internet, on videotape. STEM Teams nationwide have the potential for significantly increasing the number of girls who continue interest in STEM areas during the middle school period as well as into STEM careers.



C. A. Browning, C. A. Brossman, and A. K. Swan, "Outreach Programs at Boston University: Graduate Women in Science," 83rd Annual Graduate Women in Science National Meeting, 10-13 June 2004


Northeastern University, Tufts University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Morse Middle School in Cambridge, MA, and Devotion Primary School in Brookline, MA


Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (532100P309129)

© 2007 Trustees of Boston University. All rights reserved.  |  Last modified April 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM EDT