With Women’s History Month in full swing, the Fowler School of Engineering (FSE) community is working hard to not only honor women engineers of the past but to also celebrate the exceptional progress made by present and future women in STEM. In the recent celebration of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, an all-female team of Chapman engineering students traveled 400 miles to participate in TreeHacks 2023, a 36-hour hackathon event hosted by Stanford University. 

TreeHacks 2023, a collaborative computer programming event, provided students with the chance to cultivate core technical skills by building their own code within a teamwork-oriented environment. The hackathon also offered a plethora of experiences beyond code-writing, including specialized workshops with industry professionals, company recruitment talks, and networking opportunities between participants from all over the world.

Kalin Richardson and members of Chapman's SWE

Kalin Richardson and members of SWE at TreeHacks. Photo by Kalin Richardson.

“One of the benefits was that the companies that sponsored the event and hosted challenges gave us access to use their tools. In combination with their workshops, it felt like the possibilities were endless. Aside from creating a project, we also got to experience presenting it in front of judges,” said Yanelly Mego (Software Engineering, ‘25), one of five Chapman students in attendance. “For women in engineering, I think that being allowed to go to events such as these helped us expand our view of what’s out there and meet other women in various engineering fields.”

In addition to Mego, Chapman’s small yet mighty team consisted entirely of other CU Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter members: Viviana Arroyo-Montiel (Computer Science, ‘24), Daisy Fernandez-Reyes (Software Engineering, ‘25), Kalin Richardson (Software Engineering, ‘26), and Sarah Yoon (Computer Science, ‘24). While there, the group demonstrated their expertise in Arduino, C++ proficiency, and eagerness to adapt in pursuit of creative solutions. Their attendance enabled them to learn and collaborate within the SWE community while also opening doors for women in STEM as a whole.

“Even being able to apply let alone share and obtain knowledge at this event is a big step for girls. Going back a few years this was most likely not the case,” shared Richardson. “Even now there are some hackathons for only females and those who identify as women and non-binary, which is an even better example of growing opportunities.”

As the respective treasurer and president of Chapman’s SWE chapter, Richardson and Mego identify opportunities designed to bring advancements by and for women in STEM into the foreground. The organization strives to bridge industry connections, host practical events (from workshops to study sessions), and nurture professional, personal, and academic growth for women engineers on and beyond campus. Attending this hackathon with fellow SWE members helped place Chapman’s remarkable female engineers in the public eye, serving as a meaningful stepping stone in showcasing what women in the club offer the vast world of engineering.

“In a very short period of time, our SWE chapter has become an incredibly strong contributor to the mission of the Fowler School of Engineering,” said Andrew Lyon, Dean of FSE. “That mission, which is centered on ensuring that the broadest range of individuals see themselves as engineers, has enabled us to broaden participation in engineering in remarkable ways. The chapter’s success at the hackathon is just one more piece of evidence that illustrates their key position in our strategic path forward.”

Richardson also offered valuable parting words to encourage girls interested in pursuing engineering, citing hackathons and organizations designed for women in STEM as key places to get involved.

“If you are the only girl or in a group of only a few girls in a STEM related field or activity, look at it as a good thing. Being there is culturing others and allowing you to provide a different outlook on things that others might not see,” Richardson said. “Just stick with what you know and go explore the world!”

Those interested in Chapman’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter are encouraged to learn more through their Instagram and Engage pages. To read about the women engineers involved, check out 5 Questions with Kalin Richardson.

Cover image provided by Kalin Richardson.