With an eye on the future of the engineering profession and STEM fields in general, the Connections team has placed a significant number of resources toward diversifying these industries. Unique programming is designed for Black youth, girls, and financially challenged students.

“For far too long, we’ve lacked diversity, particularly with respect to women and people of colour,” says Kevin Deluzio, the Dean of Queen’s Engineering. “Outreach is a key component as we work to represent the society that we serve.”

Programs for girls include Little STEMS, a series of P.A. Day workshops for girls in grades 1-4, GoCodeGirl and GoEngGirl for grades 7-11, and a Girl’s Club with monthly meetings for grades 9-12.

Connections Outreach Coordinator Lindsay Jones says that the programs provide a valuable opportunity for girls to understand the many roles of an engineer. “Women are still underrepresented in the STEM fields,” she says. “This gives them an opportunity at a young age to be exposed to all these different elements of being an engineer. Most of the outreach team members are also female, so these girls and young women really have a chance to see role models in action.”

The Black Youth in STEM initiative works with participants from the Kingston area and from the Greater Toronto Area. Program Lead Cressana Williams-Massey is also developing partnerships in the Durham region and with Ontario Tech University. “My role is to design programs that will increase the number of Black scientists and engineers in Canada,” she says. “It’s a different mindset when you are a minority in a country. We are creating opportunities for Black students to share a relatable path and build community.”

“Our focus is on engineering for everyone,” says Scott Compeau, Manager of Connections Engineering Outreach. “Along with specific programs for girls and Black youth, we also offer many of our programs at no cost to schools or participants, in order to remove any financial barriers. We want to reach as many students, families, communities, and schools as possible.”

Deluzio notes that the programs are key to increasing the diversity of the faculty overall. “One of the challenges that we face is that students from equity-seeking groups don’t see themselves in their professors,” he says. “Outreach helps us attract different students and build a pipeline by creating more scientists and engineers who will go on to be professors and mentors for future generations of engineers.”