Mercy Home recently partnered with our friends at ComEd to put on a weeklong STEM workshop for our young women. The idea was conceived by Leader Council member Shay Bahramirad, who is the Vice President of Engineering and Smart Grid at ComEd.

“We gravitated towards the mission of [Mercy Home] of placing relevant career options before the kids to create a brighter future for them,” she said. “We are always exploring ways to expose young people to STEM concepts … [and] these programs reflect the natural partnership and the shared values of Mercy Home and ComEd.”

Shay also participated in a career panel at the girls campus in January, where she had the opportunity to share more about her background and her path to becoming an engineer.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few engineers emerge from this workshop in the years to come,”

“All the girls were really interested,” Elizabeth Sorice, the Director of the Walsh Campus Education and Career Resources department, said. “[They said things like], I didn’t know you could do that, or I didn’t know that ComEd does this.”

Elizabeth and Shay then worked together to find a time to do the workshop and decided to include it as part of Mercy Home’s Summer Enrichment classes.

The team at ComEd developed a program that would bring female engineers to Mercy Home to talk about their backgrounds and the steps they took to be in the career they are in now, as well as sharing more about what they do specifically at ComEd. They also facilitated projects with circuit boards so that the girls could get firsthand experience at engineering.

“[We] created this course to teach girls how to meet adversity and transcend problems and learn in the process,” Shay said.

Finding engineers to participate in the program was surprisingly easy, Bill Hanigan, the Manager of Smart Grid Programming at ComEd, said.

“Getting the engineers to jump on board was easy as pie,” he said. “They got so excited about teaching the circuit boards and teaching the girls about their path. At first, we were going to have one engineer per day, [and] at the end we had two engineers per day because we had so many engineers sign up, which I think speaks to Mercy and speaks to ComEd.”

comed presentation

“Getting the engineers to jump on board was easy as pie,” he said. “They got so excited about teaching the circuit boards and teaching the girls about their path. At first, we were going to have one engineer per day, [and] at the end we had two engineers per day because we had so many engineers sign up, which I think speaks to Mercy and speaks to ComEd.”

During the four-day workshop, the girls began each day with a warm up and hearing from ComEd engineers about their backgrounds. They then learned more about things like how electricity gets to their home, how circuits work, the greenhouse effect, and renewable energy. They would then complete different projects on the circuit boards, learning how to do things like creating an electric light and switch or a radio. On the final day, the girls were able to present a project they did and share their own backgrounds with the group. To top it off, the week after the workshop, the girls took a trip to a ComEd facility in Joliet to see firsthand what ComEd does.

“This project has just generated so much interest among our engineers and the Mercy community. We are focused on continuing the effort and partnership with Mercy Home.”

Girl presenting During the four-day workshop, the girls began each day with a warm up and hearing from ComEd engineers about their backgrounds. They then learned more about things like how electricity gets to their home, how circuits work, the greenhouse effect, and renewable energy. They would then complete different projects on the circuit boards, learning how to do things like creating an electric light and switch or a radio. On the final day, the girls were able to present a project they did and share their own backgrounds with the group. To top it off, the week after the workshop, the girls took a trip to a ComEd facility in Joliet to see firsthand what ComEd does.

“I learned teamwork—how to do teamwork—and then how to enjoy things and also learned how to do engineering,” Siyan said, adding that her favorite part was meeting the female engineers and hearing about their backgrounds.

“I learned how to build a light, that was so cool,” Indya added.

Not only did the girls have a great time, but the engineers did too.

“Seeing [the girls’] eyes light up when they learned about a concept and then were able to regurgitate that information when asked by Shay what they learned and also [when] they were interacting with the equipment we had purchased and provided [was the most rewarding thing for me],” Sandor Williams, the Manager of Smart Grid Programs at ComEd, said. “They really got hands on and that helped them learn what they thought were concepts they couldn’t understand … the engineers made it really easy for them to understand and catch up really quick.”

Shay added that she hoped the program inspired our girls to pursue careers in STEM—an area where women and minorities are often underrepresented.

Young woman showing off project“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few engineers emerge from this workshop in the years to come,” she said.

Elizabeth explained why it’s important to make sure young women are exposed to STEM programs during their middle school and high school years.

“Kids might say when they’re 10 they want to be an engineer, but when they’re 20 the field doesn’t really represent that,” she said. “We’re in that spectrum of time where they change their minds for whatever reason, so I think exposing them at a younger age to their options and then how do we keep that momentum going [is important]. I think it can honestly be a viable option for them, they just don’t know [about the options].”

The program was such a success that there are plans to do a similar program at the boys campus and have another workshop with the girls next summer.

“Right away we knew that we had something special with this program,” Shay said.

“This project has just generated so much interest among our engineers and the Mercy community. We are focused on continuing the effort and partnership with Mercy Home.”

We are so thankful to everyone at ComEd who worked so hard to make the STEM workshop an educational and fun one for the girls. It was a huge success!

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