Clermont Northeastern girls cross bridge into engineering at Milacron
By Dick Maloney
As the group from Clermont Northeastern High School walked through Milacron’s plant in Batavia, they noticed something – the ceilings got higher and higher. It turned out to be apt metaphor for what the 15 girls and teachers Kayla Sullivan and Cihan Taktak were experiencing.
Milacron hosted the group Feb. 20 as part of an Introduce a Girl to Engineering outreach, designed to promote interest in engineering as a career. CNE was the “guinea pig group,” Sullivan said. The experiment seemed to work.
Sullivan, a science teacher at CNE, said there is a perception among high school students that engineering and similar jobs are professions for males. She alluded to a “science gap” – a chasm Milacron is trying to bridge – and was excited when high school Principal T.J. Glassmeyer asked her to lead the group.
“I like to talk about women in science, because I hate hearing people tell me ‘Math is scary’ or ‘I’m bad at math’ and no one ever seems to turn around and complain about English or social studies as much, so I’m always pushing ‘You’re not bad at math. It’s not OK to hate on math and science all the time. They’re not hard, you can do this,” she said.
A chemistry major when she attended Morehead State University – the only female in the program with four males, she said – Sullivan knows the challenges that face girls who might consider a career in engineering – if their thought process advances that far.
Senior Sarahy Palafox is one such student. She said she was considering a career in business, but the Milacron visit has her reassessing that path.
“I didn’t really think about it because I didn’t think I’d be smart enough to go into engineering. It was never something that came into my mind and now I find it really interesting,” Palafox said. “It made me rethink my future and made me want to go into a career in engineering, and if you’re not good in math or science, it’s OK, because if you go into a career you like, you’ll be able to learn about it and be good at it.”
CNE offers a number of physical science classes, including an engineering class taught by Sullivan, for which she said enrollment is usually low, but she is working to help girls overcome fear of that curriculum.
“I’m a chemistry major and people say ‘Oh, you must be good at math,’ but in reality chemistry does not use that much hard math, so I think that anytime you talk about any science major, whether it’s engineering, physics, chemistry, all the physical sciences are related to math and people immediately downplay that and think it’s too hard, I can’t do it,” Sullivan said. “Like Sarahy said, she thought she was not smart enough to be an engineer, but I know that’s not true, and now she knows she can be an engineer as well because the stigma is being removed.”
Senior Sarah Ruth Twine has been accepted to and plans to attend the University of Kentucky after graduation from CNE. She hasn’t declared a college major and said the Milacron event inspired her to attend an engineering day at UK last month. Twine noticed the ceilings at the plant, where cranes were built in to pick up heavy machines.
“And they had all these automated systems to get different parts, they had part vending machines, and you put in your staff code and it gives you a part you want, and we had these little activities where you would go and make a product that’s like eco-friendly out of plastic and we had different stations and one of them was an assembly line to be the most efficient, and it was just, it was really cool,” Twine said.
Milacron President Mac Jones spoke to the girls, and the group learned the history of the company and talked to women at Milacron about engineering careers and specialties, and the struggles they had faced.
Kyle Prather, a junior at CNE, volunteered for the trip because she had said she had taken a number of career tests in which engineering was suggested as a possibility for her. She said her family has encouraged her in that direction because she likes “hands-on things.”
“I didn’t really understand what engineering was,” she said, “so I went in and I actually did learn about it and I learned I don’t have to go to a trade school, I don’t have to be in a trade school right now, I can go from high school to college, and I thought it was really interesting how the women told their story and how they came and how the men are so accepting of them being there.”
Sullivan is working with Milacron officials on ways to expand the program, such as other types of engineering-related days (mechanical engineering, for example), with the ultimate goal of raising the ceiling for women engineers.
“I would love to do it again and I would encourage as many girls as I know to go and continue to do it,” Twine said. She has one unanswered question from Feb. 20.
“I wish I asked what time they went in to work,” Twine said.
These Clermont Northeastern students attended the Introduce a Girl to Engineering event at Milacron Feb. 20:
Freshmen - Taylor Beasley, Isabell Blair, Lillian Braden, Skye Kirk, Zoe Moore, Cailey Romohr, Shelby Ruehl.
Sophomores - Livv Amann.
Juniors - Caitlin Brewer, Kylie Prather, Abby Puckett, Grace Thompson, Averiell Wallace.
Seniors - Sarahy Palafox, Sarah Twine.