February 27, 2015

Approximately 40 elementary school age girls involved with Girls Inc. of Orange County now know a bit more about engineering, design and construction – as well as the opportunities in the STEM fields – thanks to their participation in DPR’s School of Construction event in the Newport Beach office February 20, 2015.

Girls Inc. of Orange County is one of 17 organizations to receive 2015 grants from the DPR Foundation. Photo by Matt Pranzo

The event built on the success of DPR’s inaugural School of Construction launched by the Phoenix office last year. That hands-on learning day, the brainchild of project manager Tim Hyde, guided 100 or so youngsters from two Phoenix area nonprofit organizations through the process of designing and building a doghouse. The ultimate goal of both School of Construction events: to get children excited about construction and related industries.

In Newport Beach, the School of Construction day kicked off Girls Inc.’s Engineering Week (E-Week), which highlights the many opportunities and careers available in the engineering related fields.

“At Girls Inc. we teach the girls a lot about STEM careers because we know women are underrepresented in those fields,” commented Kelli Norris, Elementary Programs Coordinator for Girls Inc. “There are a lot of girls interested in (construction and engineering) but wouldn’t really know there’s a path for them to do that unless they’re given a chance to make connections with companies like DPR and to talk to women who work here.”

The day kicked off with a stretch and flex session. Girls then rotated through four stations, which included: a design station, where they sketched their ideas; a mock-build station, where they built small models of their design; a safety station, where they tried on personal protective equipment, saw a scissor lift demonstration and enjoyed a snack; and finally, a building station, where they instructed adult volunteers in the construction of the dog houses.

At the first station, the girls learned about the design process by sketching their doghouses. Photo by David Cox

A team of approximately 20 DPR volunteers were involved, guiding the girls from station to station and leading the hands-on learning sessions. “They really took the initiative and gave it a lot of careful thought and attention,” King said of the volunteers. “I think they had a great time too.”

DPR volunteers led sessions on design, mock-ups, safety and construction. Photo by David Cox

And by all accounts, so did the girls. One of the participants, Shelby, said her favorite part was designing the doghouse. “Maybe when I’m older I’ll look into designing things,” she said. “I love it here! I want whiteboard walls in my room!”

Some mock-ups were decorated with smiley faces. Photo by David Cox

At the end of the afternoon, all of the girls took home their sketches, their doghouse models and DPR hard hats. They also took with them a new experience to put in their own personal “toolboxes” as they build their knowledge base and increase their awareness about the many possible career paths available to them in the future.