Event Recap: Design Your World STEM Conference For Girls!


Dallas SWE’s 14th Design Your World STEM Conference for Girls was held on November 10, 2018 at Southern Methodist University! Tickets for the event sold out with the attendance of 120 middle school aged girls, in grades 6th-8th, spending the day learning about multiple industries where a STEM career can lead them.

This day would not have been possible without the multiple volunteers, parents, and educators that took time out of their day to be a part of this inspirational event.  Additionally, a special THANK YOU to our generous corporate sponsors: ExxonMobil (Platinum) and Lennox (Gold).   Finally, we would also like to acknowledge the resolute efforts of our event coordinators: Terriekka Cardenas (Dallas SWE VP of Outreach and DYW Event Chair), Amanda Alsbrook (Registration Chair), Shannon Cruise (Student Activities Chair), Teri Cate (logistics), Sandy Rolon (opening/closing ceremony), Thi Dao (Volunteer Coordinator), Kim Concillado (marketing and media), Rana Karimi (T-shirts), Zaineb Ahmad (Parent/Educator Track coordinator), Katia Gomez (planning committee), and Liz Hainey (fundraising/finance and food order).


You can find all of our event photos on our Facebook page album for this event! Below are a few of the highlights.

Opening Session

Sandy Rolon jump started the DYW event with an inspirational speech about working hard towards your goals and pursuing your career, whatever those may be! Subsequently, she held an ice breaker with all of the participants to get them excited about the day ahead of them.

Student Activities

We had a wonderful variety of activities for the students to choose from this year! The students broke into six groups, which rotated through three of the activities listed below during their day:

  • Biomedical Engineering – Sponsored by Accenture

Students simulated a blocked artery using clay and learned about the different technologies utilized in the medical industry to clear them.

  • Computer Science – Sponsored by Codestream Studios

Students were able to participate in app/web development by making their own webpage.  They also learned about the most influential women in computer science.

  • Electrical Engineering – Sponsored by Girls in STEM

Students designed and built their own circuits while learning about the basics of electrical engineering.  They were also given the opportunity to build small scale bridges and understand best practices for strengthening the structure.

  • Telecommunications – Sponsored by Fujitsu

Students learned how to send messages through Morse code and were able to decipher messages created by the instructors.

  • Mechanical/HVAC Engineering – Sponsored by Lennox

Students learned about the basics of HVAC by comparing the various components to the human body.  After a short presentation, they built the circuit for a thermometer using an Arduino.

  • Renewable Energy – Halliburton

Students learned about the principles of renewable energy and built salt water powered vehicles.

Parent & Educator Sessions

During the Design Your World STEM conference, three Parent-Educator panels were held: a young engineers session (Voices from the Field – What’s Really Out there?), an engineering collegiate session (What’s Next? Collegiates Share Their Paths), and an engineering campus tour, hosted by SMU engineering students. Each panel had content aimed for parents and educators to aid in their students’ STEM education and motivation.

The first panel allowed panelists to share their collegiate and early career experiences, as well as overcoming difficulties, surprising things, and any advice for the STEM students. The goal was to answer any questions that the parents had about their STEM students’ education and future career. Many of the panelists discussed their careers from their points of view as well as their support systems, hardships, and perseverance. The parents asked several questions about how the panelists handled the difficulties that came their way, how they motivated themselves, and what drove them to choose their fields.

The second panel consisted of collegiate SWE members in various engineering majors.  The objective of the panel was similar to first session, but the panelists spoke to their support system and schooling that got them to this point in their college career.  They also provided advice on college admissions, financing their educations, and finding internships.

The last session of the day gave parents and educators a view into engineering campus life, with a tour of the engineering school by current engineering students. The students were able to showcase their lives on campus, while providing the attendees more opportunities to ask questions and discuss their students’ futures.

The parents and educators that attended were very open and communicative about the needs of the STEM students and appreciated the panelists and the content that was focused on. They happily asked questions and participated in each of the panels.

Closing and Engineering Fashion Show

Sandy Rolon took the stage again to recognize participants that were the most involved with the activities during the day.  These students were brought up to the stage and rewarded a Bitsbox, which is a subscription box that teaches kids how to code!

To close the event in true Design Your World fashion, the volunteers and SWE members strutted their stuff on the catwalk, wearing apparel that is typical of their STEM job.  We had field engineers, design engineers, and even a nuclear physicist show off what they wear day-to-day on the job.

Impact Highlights

Here are a few highlights from our student evaluations:I enjoyed the HTML/CSS part.  I like coding, so it was fun to do some.

I liked how the volunteers made building and learning things fun.  I loved the salt water cells.

I liked all the events because I learned new things.

It was great.  I learned things that I did not know.  I want to come back!

I liked learning about Morse code and learning about STEM.  It helped me realize that we need more women in that field.

November 2015 Event Recap



Thank you for being a participant in our Fall 2015 Design Your World STEM Conference for Girls: you were one of the 150 4th, 5th or 6th graders, 80 parent educators or 80 volunteers who had an exciting time November 14, 2015 at Caruth Hall, Southern Methodist University!  If you want to recapture the moments and get pictures you can visit our Facebook photo album here.

Design Your World is the signature outreach program of Dallas SWE. Our sponsors that enabled us to run this all volunteer event were Exxon Mobil (Platinum), State Farm and Abbott (Gold) and Capital One (Silver). We thank them for their support of increasing diversity and excitement for technology and engineering careers.

Twice a year we run an event working with a collegiate SWE section. This year the Dallas SWE VP for Outreach, Nandika D’Souza co-chaired the event with Morgan Reiner of SMU SWE. Students, professionals and a number of area teachers came together to enable 4-6th graders and parents/educators to come away inspired.

We ran:

  • An exploration of materials/polymer/chemical engineering through the polymer jewelry exercise for 150 girls. The program was led by Adanma Akoma and Andres Garcia of the UNT SAMPE and Society of Plastics Engineers Sections. Working engineers from these societies came in to share their work life experiences. The activity and others are posted at stemcess.com developed for North Texas Gold Award Project by Alicia D’Souza
  • A new activity developed by Kim Knight for 2012 Design Your World was re-worked by Jordan Kayse and Shelley Stracener: a flashing LED lighted headband for 150 girls. There were some challenges completing this activity both due to the sewing comfort of the children and the time allowed for the activity. If your student was unable to successfully complete the activity on Saturday, here are some resources you can use to help her finish up at home!
  • Abbott Women Engineers stepped up to develop a new activity-robotic arm that 50 girls built. The mentoring and extraordinary one on one engagement with working engineers was inspiring to all of us. The activity was led by Neha Dobhal, Dallas SWE and Abbott enginer.
  • Mayaria Johnson, past-President of UNT SWE and now employee of Pepsico returned as a professional leader of the Computer Science activity which was based on Alice Programming. State Farm and USAA engineers came in to provide inspirational leadership both for the execution as well as to mentor 50 children.
  • Dallas SWE VP for Membership, Zaineb Ahmad and past President Barbara Vilbig evoked squeals of excitement in the car building and racing activity for 50 children.
  • Amber Schurer, Texas Instruments and Dallas SWE member ran the parent/educator panels. Parent/educators can benefit from more opportunities to inspire their children. New this year was the opportunity for parents and educators to experience an activity with children Terriekka Cardenas assembled a valuable list for parents to stay engaged with kids: https://stemforgirls.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/dyw2015_steam-camp-info.xlsx

In summary, Dallas SWE benefitted from new volunteers stepping in to learn registration and logistical management of the DYW event and an extraordinary group of students from SMU who stepped up to the challenge of a new activity, finding rooms, making t’shirts.

If there is an inspiring thought it is this: nearly all the volunteers in Design Your World expend 60 hour work weeks because we are all engaged in challenging and growth oriented careers. In an all volunteer program, this event continued the tradition of people taking extra time out of their busy schedules to serve YOU! If there is a way for us to exemplify the goals of Aspire, Advance and Achieve it is to experience Design Your World as an attendee, a volunteer or a parent educator.

Thanks for the shared experience November 14th. Our next event will be April 2nd at Discovery Park, University of North Texas, Denton for 6-12th graders. Stay tuned to our website or social media for details, or opt in to receive our email communications straight to your inbox!

Warm regards,

Kitty Elshot, Morgan Reiner, Nandika D’Souza, Shelley Stracener, Lynn Mortensen and Elizabeth Hainey

Design Your World November 14, 2015 Leadership Team

P.S. Check out this article about the event from SMU News!

P.P.S. Enjoy this video from our day together!

Thank you to our Nov 2015 event sponsors!


As we continue planning for our November 14, 2015 Design Your World STEM Conference at SMU, we want to take a moment to thank our generous sponsors for this year. We could not offer this great event without your help! Thank you!!

Platinum Sponsors ($5,000+)


Gold Sponsors ($2,500 – $4,999)



Silver Sponsors ($1,000-$2,499)


Bronze Sponsors ($<1,000)

Event Recap: March 2015 Design Your World – STEM Conference for Girls


This spring’s Design Your World-STEM Conference for Girls was an outstanding success!  Two events for the 2014-2015 fiscal year were generously supported by Exxon Mobil, Capital One, Pryor Packaging and an outreach award grant from SWE International.  The March 2015 DYW event was executed completely by volunteers and a new partnership with the Dallas Independent School District. Dallas SWE has been keen to expand access to this event after receiving feedback from local school teachers during a Sci-Girls workshop in January 2014.  They identified logistical challenges of metroplex travel and an increased need to reach out to newer regions in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School

Dallas SWE reached out to Dallas ISD’s STEM Department Executive Director Oscar Alvanrenga and Director Crystal Alexander.  They identified Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School as the optimum facility for an event of this kind. Jane Didear of Dallas ISD Volunteer and Partnership Services provided additional assistance.  The SMU SWE student section, counseled by former Dallas SWE President Jennifer Vilbig, selected Kelly Howey to be the student Co-Chair to partner with professional Co-Chair and Dallas SWE VP of Outreach Nandika D’Souza. Lynn Mortensen, Co-Chair of the November 2014 Design Your World conference for 6-12th grade girls, continued her phenomenal volunteer recruitment efforts.  120 girls, 64 adults and 92 volunteers registered through Eventbrite, managed by DYW Webmaster and Registration Chair Shelley Stracener.

Upon arrival at Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School, students picked up a lavender-colored t-shirt and goody bag made possible by AT&T and Raytheon.  The opening session was held in the school’s auditorium with plenty of space for everyone. Meagan Pollock, Director of Professional Development for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) led the opening program communicating the excitement and limitless potential of STEM careers. She engaged the audience in a teamwork game engaging all their senses.  Kendria Johnson, a teacher at Zan Wesley Holmes Jr., then brought her nationally recognized STEM dance troup that highlighted the importance of personal value over peer pressure. Inspired, attendees then made their way to their STEM activities. Six activities were run in 3 sessions allowing each girl to experience the design paradigm for three engineering fields.

  • Mechanical Energy- Marshmallows and Spaghetti was led by Lori Wiltz Halliburton and Ophelie Herve, SMU-SWE
  • Computer Science- Fun with Alice was led by Mayaria Johnson, UNT-SWE and ACM-W
  • Biomedical: Clearing a Path the Heart was led by Cynthia Markbreiter and Mar McCreary    SMU-SWE
  • Chemical Engineering-Polymer Jewelry was led by Alicia D’Souza, STEMcess.com    and Andres Garcia-UNT Society of Plastics Engineers
  • Aerospace Engineering: Rocket Fun, was developed by Rachel Shepherd, SMU-SWE
  • Electrical Engineering: Lights, Sound, Action was led by the Women of AT&T Jennifer Gamboa-Haker and Arianna Santiago, SMU SWE

Dallas SWE continued the SWE Outreach Award winning Parent/Educator Panel sessions this year, chaired by Anita Pacheco. After the joint opening session, the parent/educator group convened in the auditorium. Amber Scheurer moderated a panel discussion, “Helping students prepare for a STEM career,” with Joey Jiang (Halliburton), Cherrie Fisher (AT&T), and Justa Trevino (Raytheon).  The panelists shared challenges they faced such as being the first in the family to go to college or having to learn English as a second language. They also discussed their experiences overcoming bias in the workplace and strategies they used to encourage their children in STEM.

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School is home to a nationally competitive underwater robotic team!  Students on the team demonstrated their robot for the group of adults and the team’s teacher sponsor, Michelle Thomas, shared her best practices for parents and educators to work with their schools to replicate their success.  Then parents and educators had time to connect with each other and professional engineers over lunch.

They reconvened in the auditorium for a panel called “My Engineering Life” moderated by Anita Pacheco (Oorvo, Inc). The panelists, recent engineering graduates, included Jennifer Vilbig (Vilbig & Associates, Amber Scheurer (Texas Instruments) and Shelley Stracener (Heads Up Technologies).  They talked about the impact of an engineering degree on their income level and financial independence, how they enjoyed working in teams, and how their work experiences were very team-focused. They highlighted this last point because engineering is often misunderstood as a reclusive job with little social interaction.  After the panel, Nandika D’Souza then went over the steps that are involved in college admissions using materials provided by Landon Ellison, Admissions Officer, Engineering, UNT. The adults found the session to be very rewarding in providing a road map to assist children.

As the end of the day drew near, students and volunteers moved back to the auditorium. Dallas SWE members elicited squeals of excitement as they put on an Engineering Fashion Show, displaying all the different careers and clothing an engineer uses in her everyday work!  Then, an AT&T-led high school robot team showed a design they created.  As children and adults filled out assessments and left, the excitement from attendees was unmistakable: engineering unleashes energy, ideas, and possibilities!

Engineering Fashoin Show!

Engineering Fashoin Show!

Volunteer organizations that supported the event included Women of AT&T, Halliburton and Abbott; student sections of UNT-Society of Plastics Engineers, UNT-Society of Women Engineers and UNT-ACM.

Visit our Facebook page for more great photos!

Check out these great videos from our day of fun and learning!
Video prepared by Student Co-Chair Kelly Howey
Dallas ISD Education Technology department’s video


~ Nandika D’Souza, PhD
Design Your World March 2015 Event Co-Chair

Info for Saturday’s Design Your World STEM Conference


We are so excited about another SOLD OUT Design Your World – STEM Conference for Girls!  Registrants should get this information in email, but we’re sharing it here as well so you don’t miss it.

Thanks for registering for Design Your World on Saturday, March 28, 2015, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers Dallas and SMU sections with support from Dallas ISD.  The event will be held 8:30am to 3:30pm at:

 Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School
 2939 Saint Rita Drive
 Dallas, TX 75233 

Please park in the parking lot on the corner of Saint Rita and Saint David on the school grounds.  There is additional parking around the far east side of the grounds.  When you arrive, follow the signs to the Attendee Check-in table in the gray building towards St. Rita (west) with the large windows.

Boxed lunches (sandwiches and drinks) will be served for all attendees.  Unfortuantely we are not able to accommodate any special dietary restrictions.  If you have dietary restrictions, please arrange to provide your own meal.

The great majority of volunteers for this event are engineers, so be sure you and your students interact withthem throughout the day.  Be sure to like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter for live updates during the event!  If you take photos, please share them with us on social media or email them to us at designyourworld.swe@gmail.com.

We look forward to seeing you Saturday for an exciting day of STEM learning and fun!

Shelley Stracener
Design Your World Webmaster and Registration Chair