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Young Engineer Inspires Hundreds More Women to Engineering

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Each year Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation awards engineering scholarships to about a dozen young women who have exhibited leadership and worked to bring other young women to the profession. As the program director for Women in Engineering at University of British Columbia, Dolma Tsundu has worked tirelessly to do just that.
 
The organization has seven committees and over 80 members who do everything to spark an interest in engineering in the women they reach out to.
 
“We go out to schools in the lower mainland, and deliver presentations,” Tsundu said. “Generally, there are three engineering students who go into a classroom and talk about their own experiences with engineering.” Through the organization she’s connected with more than 300 students.
 
The trick to making those connections is to convey the potential and efficacy of engineering. “It’s been shown that women are more likely to be drawn to things that impact people,” she said. “Demonstrating the impact that engineering really does have on the world resonates with the girls in the room.”
 
Often young people don’t really understand what it is that an engineer does. Tsundu tries to show them the breadth of engineering fields. “They think of civil and mechanical engineering, of bridges and cars. We try to show them that engineers are helping with clean energy, health care, and so much more.”
 
Along the way, she has to dispel a myth or two, in particular that there’s no room for creativity in engineering. “We want to change that idea, and show that creativity is very valued in engineering, that that’s how you bring in new ideas and innovation,” she said.
 
For young women that fear a male dominated profession, Tsundu points out that the number of women in engineering is growing. At the University of British Columbia, 30 percent of engineering students are women. And, because they are in the minority, their voices make a difference. “We show them that having a different perspective is so important, so needed in engineering, because it’s so lacking.”
 
When Tsundu is not working to bring young women into engineering, she’s working on creating products that help women. She’s the CEO and co-founder of Flutter Wear, a device that helps pregnant women keep track of fetal movements. Doctors often advise women to keep track of such movements by counting them or using a clicker. “It can be very time consuming and it can be difficult to distinguish between a fetal movement and bowel movements, and things like that,” Tsundu said.
 
Her device is worn throughout the day and keeps track of baby movements automatically. The data can be easily passed to a doctor for analysis.
 
The idea for this device was born at a hackathon called Hatching Health. “A medical student who was interested in being an obstetrician pitched the problem and we came up with the solution,” Tsundu said. In developing the product, she spoke with midwives and worked with the Women’s Health Research Institute in Vancouver. Now she’s consulting with pregnant women and learning about the patent process.
 
Expectant mothers and women that Tsundu has brought to engineering can be thankful that she chose engineering over science. “For me it was a difficult decision between engineering and the sciences,” she said. “Once I was able to realize that engineering was very applied, and the breadth of engineering—that I’ve been showing a lot of girls—I was able to decide.”

Michael Abrams is a technology writer based in New Jersey.
 
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