Interview with Dori Robers of Engineering for Kids, via Forbes.
Recent research has explored this important question: In an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, why are there so few female scientists and engineers? Compelling evidence suggests there are key environmental and social barriers, including stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities — that continue to block women’s progress in STEM.
As an example of what young women hear on a daily basis about why they can’t be scientists and engineers, Sarah Peters, an Engineering for Kids teacher, shared this with me:
One of my teachers in middle school once told me that she wanted to be an astronaut growing up, but was told that she couldn’t. And my mom was told that ‘girls aren’t good at math.’ Even though that was many years ago, things don’t seem too far off today. When I started taking engineering classes as a freshman in high school, I was often the only girl in the class. Even now, as a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, I am still one of few females pursuing engineering, and they’ll often assume by looking at me that I couldn’t be one. I’ve had males in the computer lab tell me that ‘only engineers can log into these computers.’ Organizations like Engineering For Kids are so important because they provide the unique opportunity to inspire young women to get into these technical fields, and we need more of that.
To help young women overcome these barriers, and more children leverage their natural STEM interests, former high school engineering teacher Dori Roberts took matters into her own hands. Dori taught high school engineering for 11 years and saw a real void in quality STEM education, for both girls and boys. The mother of two started an afterschool club that participated in various STEM-based competitions. After membership hit 180 students and the group won multiple state championships, she expanded the program and devoted 100% of her time to develop Engineering For Kids (EFK).
Engineering For Kids began operating out of Dori’s Virginia home as she introduced her programs to local recreation centers. As demand for the programs increased, along with Dori’s desire to impact as many youth as possible, she began franchising Engineering For Kids in 2012. Today, the company operates over 140 franchises in 32 states and 19 countries. Sales have doubled from $5 million in 2014 to $10 million in 2015, with 25 new franchises planned for 2016.