Think Like a Girl. Become an Engineer.



(Left to right) Katharine Morgan, executive vice president, ASTM meets with Think Like a Girl co-founders Megan DeGeorge, Alexis Basantis and Gabrielle Rochino, and their adviser, Jennifer A. Kadlowec, Ph.D., head of Rowan's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Engineering remains one of the most underrepresented fields for women at about 10 to 15 percent of the workforce in many developed countries, including the United States. Three mechanical engineering undergraduates at Rowan University in New Jersey want to change that.

ASTM International Executive Vice President Katharine Morgan visited Gabrielle Rochino, Alexis Basantis, and Megan DeGeorge in February after seeing a feature story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about their startup idea: Think Like a Girl engineering kits, a subscription-based kit shipped in a small box to 6-to-12-year-old girls.

The monthly shipment will present the fundamentals of engineering as seen through the eyes of "Gaby Gadget," named after Rochino. The students showed Morgan the prototype for the Think Like a Girl kit, which contains:

  • A hands-on engineering activity with familiar household objects,
  • A Gaby Gadget story that elaborates on the lesson learned from the activity,
  • A "trading card" that highlights a contemporary female leader in engineering,
  • A sustainability-related item,
  • A small design project, and
  • A small prize that relates to that month's theme.

Morgan said, "As someone who went through engineering school with very few other women next to me in class, I think this is a great idea. Getting more girls interested in engineering is crucial to improving society and to continually strengthening the work of organizations like ASTM."

In developing ideas for their prototype, the team looked at surveys and research done by organizations such as Girl Scouts. They incorporated proven learning strategies and tactics into the product, emphasizing storytelling and role playing.

Rochino said, "We want girls to know that engineers are problem solvers who help people. That is truly our core message, and we know that it will resonate with young girls."

Last year, Think Like a Girl won first place (out of more than 85 entries), in the university's Elevator Pitch Competition, administered by its Rohrer College of Business. In addition, Rowan's Innovation Venture Fund awarded the team $5,000 to work on market research, prototyping and business development.

This year, the team is focused on broader funding and transitioning into production, according to Rochino, who adds that they already have a strong list of potential subscribers.

Their adviser, Jennifer A. Kadlowec, Ph.D., is Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rowan, one of a small number of women in that role at a major engineering college. She said that Think Like a Girl could be a crucial step toward helping girls embrace engineering as a potential path of study.

"We need more great ideas like Think Like a Girl that will inspire girls through stories and activities at a crucial age when girls are first being exposed to math and science," she said.

Before leaving, Morgan encouraged the girls to sign up for ASTM's free student membership and told them that ASTM would be promoting their story on its Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn channels on Girl's Day (Feb. 25) of Engineers Week (Feb. 21-27), organized by the National Society of Professional Engineers. This event also supports ASTM's Year of the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SME), which celebrates entrepreneurs and small businesses in 2016.

Issue Month: 
March/April
Issue Year: 
2016