City of Oak Ridge Electrical Engineer Margaret Elgin was the featured speaker at a recent event at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

The inaugural event, held at Y-12’s New Hope Center, was called Introduce a Girl to Engineering and was for students in grades 9 through 12. Three hundred seventy-six girls, along with 53 chaperones from 13 area schools attended.

Ms. Elgin discussed her background as the daughter of a young mother, how she overcame challenges and rose to become a successful electrical engineer, a business owner, and now one of the top Electrical Department managers for the City of Oak Ridge. Her talk, “It’s All About the Money,” showed the young women how an engineering degree is achievable, fulfilling, and financially rewarding.

In addition, approximately 50 women engineers from Y-12 participated with hands-on activities ranging from surrogate material simulation to T-shirt chromatograph answered questions about their specific fields. Guest speakers and exhibitors from the area including the University of Tennessee shared information about pre-engineering curricula for high school, college planning, professional organizations, and the tangible rewards of an engineering career.

“Reaching out to not only Oak Ridge High School, but to other schools in our region in a partnership between Y-12 and the City of Oak Ridge is what we should be doing to prepare Oak Ridge for a workforce for the future,” said Jane Miller, Y-12 Community Relations and also Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Oak Ridge. “Margaret did a great job and helped inspire the next generation of female professionals. We also brought a lot of people to Oak Ridge for lunch”.

Attendees of all ages were impressed with Ms. Elgin’s presentation and the event. “Next year I bet we’ll have kids fighting to come on this trip,” said Karen Payne, guidance counselor at Claiborne High School.

Kate Banick, a junior at West High School, also left intrigued. Describing the event as “a really great experience and really informative,” she said she hadn’t previously considered engineering. “I think I might want to go into engineering now that I’ve gone to the event. I didn’t know what engineering entailed.”

Librarian Sandy Martin of Oneida High School, which sent about 40 girls, said, “Exposure to engineering opportunities is very big for our kids. They don’t really know what is out there. It’s a big deal for them to see the opportunities.”

“It was fantastic,” said UT College of Engineering representative Travis Griffin. “We’ll be back with two tables next year and more women students and more giveaways.”

The women engineers guiding the interactive sessions that followed Ms. Elgin’s speech represented an array of engineering disciplines. Among the more than 20 exhibit booths, attendees could learn about industrial engineering in making jewelry; about polymer engineering through making Gak, or silly putty; and about chemical engineering in creating cosmetics. Clinton High School science teacher Riley Sain told his students they’d be making lip gloss in an upcoming chemistry class with the formula provided.

Participating schools were Anderson County Career and Technical Center, Claiborne High School, Clinton High School, Coalfield High School, Farragut High School, Hardin Valley Academy, Karns High School, Knoxville West High School, Lenoir City High School, Oak Ridge High School, Oakdale School, Oneida High School and Sunbright High School.

News media contact: Amy Fitzgerald (865) 425-3554 or afitzgerald@oakridgetn.gov.