Christine Schindler came to Duke University as a rarity – a young woman focused on being an engineer. She graduated this May as something even more significant – an engineer and social entrepreneur who created a pathway for more young girls to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.
Together with other Duke students and with faculty support, she founded Girls Engineering Change, an organization that targets young girls and encourages their interest in STEM fields. The goal, she said, is to change the existing perception that science- and math-based careers are only for boys.
Girls Engineering Change differs from other STEM-focused programs by giving girls hands-on experience. Over the past few years, for example, participants have built solar-powered USB chargers that have been used in disaster relief settings, small toys that have gone to children’s hospitals, and calculators that are used in Durham schools.
The girls actually get to touch and build something,” Schindler said. “They get to see that it works – that it went somewhere to make an impact on the world.”
From the very beginning, she said, Duke has been instrumental in making Girls Engineering Change a reality. From providing a place to meet to securing funding, the University has been the program’s most significant sponsor.
“We’ve received tons of support throughout this process on how to be a successful start-up. There’s been so much encouragement and advice,” she said. “Because of the emphasis at Duke on service to society, students and faculty have really gotten behind this project. Girls Engineering Change wouldn’t be where it is without the support the University has given us.”