Cal State LA aims to launch science careers for young women

Three … two … one … liftoff!

Southern California girls from 23 local high schools were rapt on Thursday, July 21, as they learned from professors and industry professionals about the science and math behind rockets, propulsion, robotics and civil engineering at the LAunchPad summer program at Cal State LA’s College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology.

The goal of the two-week program: increase the stubbornly low percentage of girls in the U.S. who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Ingrid Garcia, a student at John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles, said she had the chance this month to learn from top experts at Cal State. And that, she said, “has made me make the decision that I want to study mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering. … Once I graduate from high school, I’m going to try to come to this school.”

Equally important, Garcia said, “I’m pretty sure it has helped more girls.”

Students in the summer program launched miniature water rockets and engaged in other science activities while exploring aerospace engineering and other aspects of STEM expertise.

Thelma Federico, director of LAunchPad, said Cal State LA created the program six years ago because its College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology was made up of only 15% women students.

Federico wants young women to come away from a college education in STEM with the understanding that “I can make an impact on the world.”

And indeed, the motto on its website says LAunchPad is, “Where you learn about the exciting ways engineers and computer scientists make the world a better place.”