Redemption from Rubble: Inspiring Girls in STEM

By OSC on June 23, 2017 in What's New

In 1999, news spread around the globe that an earthquake had devastated a town in Turkey. The developing nation’s infrastructure was not prepared to handle this powerful of a force, and in less than one minute, the quake killed 17,000 people and left another 50,000 injured.

But redemption rose from the rubble. A local teenage girl assessed the damage and wanted to make a difference. She made it her goal to become an engineer, so that she could create safer structures for people in earthquake-prone areas.

That young woman, Menzer Pehlivan, followed her dream and grew up to become a geotechnical engineer. Today, she works in Seattle for a global design company called CH2M. Her accomplishments led MacGillivray Freeman Films to select her as a featured engineer in the educational film Dream Big: Engineering Our World, now showing at Orlando Science Center.

International Women in Engineering Day

June 23, 2017, was the first time International Women in Engineering Day was recognized as a global event. To promote Dream Big and inspire girls to pursue their interest in STEM, Menzer visited Orlando Science Center June 23 and 24.

The road to becoming an engineer and succeeding professionally in a new country (speaking a second language) was not already set before Menzer. She used her knack for innovation to design and construct her own way of getting there–especially as a woman in the field.

“The challenge of being an engineer starts way before you decide to become one,” Menzer said. “The biggest challenge is the perception of what people think an engineer is–even from the people who are in engineering, and that needs to change.”

Menzer is familiar with the expectation that it is her responsibility to prove herself as a female engineer: from a high school teacher who was skeptical of her career plans, to seasoned engineers whose assumptions lend to paying more attention to an inexperienced young man than to the PhD-wielding woman sitting beside him. She is passionate about changing the public perception of what an engineer looks like so that girls will be able to see themselves in such a career.

“Even if you can reach one girl, that makes a difference,” Menzer said as she showed Orlando Science Center President & CEO JoAnn Newman (a fellow female engineer) a charming photo of a child in a tutu and hard hat, who wrote a school paper about Menzer’s work. “This is worth everything.”

On International Women in Engineering Day, Menzer visited a first- and second-grade summer camp class at Orlando Science Center. She talked with a group of girls as they built a bridge out of LEGO bricks. During the activity, one of the girls enthusiastically told Menzer that she wanted to become an engineer someday.

“It starts in the science centers. I think that’s a big and important part of the community,” Menzer said. “When the girl is growing up, if you can introduce her to these kinds of activities, that will help her start thinking maybe she can do it too.”

Meet Menzer in Person

Dream Big engineer Menzer will be visiting Orlando Science Center on Saturday, June 24, to give a presentation and lead hands-on STEM activities.


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