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Angela Hu (left) was one of 95 participants in this year’s Girls Leadership in Engineering Experience event organized by U of T (Photo: Natasha Johnston).

When Angela Hu (TrackOne 1T8) was a little girl, she would often wonder what was happening on the inside of machines. Fueled by this curiosity, she went on to pursue math and science courses, achieving high grades that led her to U of T Engineering.

On the weekend of May 24-25, Hu travelled from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to the University of Toronto to join 95 other female students at the Girls Leadership in Engineering Experience, also known as GLEE.

Now in its third year, GLEE is hosted by the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering to welcome female high school students to the engineering community. Currently, approximately one-quarter of the Faculty’s undergraduate students are female.

Over the course of the 30-hour event, attendees were immersed in the dynamic and passionate environment at U of T Engineering. They had the opportunity to meet future classmates, attend a career panel, take part in hands-on engineering workshops and stay overnight at Victoria College residence.

“GLEE has been awesome so far, especially the workshop where we were designing an artificial arm,” said Hu, who recently accepted her offer to TrackOne. “The group successfully did it and we were all so happy about this.”

Participants also attended a semi-formal dinner hosted by Dean Cristina Amon, who welcomed the aspiring engineers with a story about her very first failed experiment:

“When I was a young girl living in Uruguay, I was fascinated by how things worked. I thought there were people inside our radio singing and talking – so one day when my parents were away, I opened it and found there were no little people, but vacuum tubes and capacitors and other old-fashioned electronics. We might call this my first failed experiment!

“While most adults told me to stop disassembling devices, there was one teacher who encouraged me to tinker with things and take them apart. I feel so lucky that she started me on this journey that has taken me around the world, working with brilliant colleagues and amazing students like you.”

During dinner, Professor Angela Schoellig from the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) gave a keynote address, sharing her research on robotics, controls and machine learning. She also demonstrated one of her flying robots.

Schoellig stressed the importance of focusing on subjects that inspire curiosity and fascination, rather than following the expectations of others. “About ten years ago, I was sitting where you are now,” she said. “And I had no idea what I was going to take. The only thing I really knew was that I loved math and the sciences. I learned about a program that would teach me to use math and the engineering sciences to solve real world problems, so I followed my instincts and enrolled. I never would have expected that, one day, I would be here, showing you flying robots. It’s impossible to predict the future, so the best thing you can do is to choose something that you are really passionate about.”

Another incoming student Tatiana Joseph (MechE 1T8), also a strong believer in letting your interests guide you to a career, laughed about her special relationship with math and science. “Me and physics, we go out together,” said Joseph, a Montréal resident whose trip to GLEE brought her to Toronto for the first time. “I’m someone who wants to create things – things that can be useful to other people – and I found that engineering would allow me to do that. There are so many possibilities, it’s exciting.”

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