Eighteen promising future technical experts from New Hampshire high schools have graduated from BAE Systems’ 20th annual Women in Technology (WiT) New Hampshire program. The WiT program is a collaborative effort between local area high schools and BAE Systems, giving female students in New Hampshire who have an aptitude in math and science a practical opportunity to explore careers in various technical disciplines.
Through WiT, female students in their junior and senior years of high school visit BAE Systems at least once a week for 16 weeks to participate in hands-on engineering modules and to be mentored by technical experts who share their knowledge and provide encouragement and guidance toward pursuing an engineering career. During their time at BAE Systems, students are exposed to several aspects of engineering by participating in various technical rotations such as software, mechanical and microwave engineering as well as signal processing and engineering manufacturing.
At this year’s graduation, students shared what they have learned throughout the WiT program and what they will take away from the experience. “Going in to this I had no idea what I wanted to do,” said Emma Danielson, one of this year’s WiT graduates and a student at Goffstown High School. “There are so many different areas of engineering and this helped me understand what it is and what it would entail if I chose it as my career path. This showed me engineering can be fun.”
Emilyann Nault, another 2015 WiT graduate and a student at Salem High School, added what she found appealing about a career in engineering. “I would love to travel and I found out through BAE [Systems] that engineers can go all over the place to test products they are working on – I didn’t realize that electrical engineers had those opportunities to travel and work as a team,” she said.
Each student was recognized with a certificate of completion. Previous WiT graduates have continued on to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, with some graduates interning at BAE Systems and others joining as full-time employees.
“Women in Technology encouraged me to explore a wide variety of engineering careers,” said a former WiT graduate, Kristen Altvater, now a Mechanical Engineer for BAE Systems. “It opened my eyes to the vastness of the STEM field, and I found it inspiring to see engineers - regardless of gender - working together across the disciplines to create products that make a difference in our country, community, and in the world.” Altvater is a graduate of Londonderry High School and joined BAE Systems full-time in 2013.
“The Women in Technology Program gave me the unique opportunity to learn about engineering from BAE Systems engineers while I was still in high school. The program introduced me to engineering concepts in electrical, mechanical and software engineering. Because of the learning experiences and knowledge that I gained through participation in the WIT program, I was confident that pursuing an Electrical Engineering degree was the right decision upon graduation from high school,” said Courtney Ross, a WiT alum who graduated from Nashua High School South in 2009 and is now an electrical engineer at BAE Systems.
Congresswoman Ann Kuster, a member of the STEM caucus on Capitol Hill, was in attendance and congratulated the graduates on their achievement. “I am so impressed by the ideas and the innovation happening here in New Hampshire. We need a 21st century work force – young people who have the engineering and technical skills to fill jobs in New Hampshire,” she said. “Congratulations and thank you to the mentors for taking time out of your busy lives and careers to guide and inspire these young women.”
When Sandi Pelletier, a founding member of the WiT program, began working at BAE Systems 40 years ago as an assembler, few female engineers were in the industry. “If I think back to when I first started, there really were no women in engineering at all. Fortunately, that’s changed,” said Pelletier. “Since 1995, almost 600 high school females have graduated from our WiT programs across the three BAE Systems sites. Our primary goal is to help these young women focus on what they want to do when they get into college.”
Pelletier said WiT started with six students but now has 18 students per year in New Hampshire, selected from up to 50 applicants. The program has also expanded to BAE Systems sites in Manassas, Va., and Greenlawn, N.Y. – now in their 18th and 2nd years respectively.