By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – There is a gender gap that worries educators: not enough female students are studying engineering, math, and computer science in college.

Administrators at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are trying to get girls interested in these subjects by exposing them at an early age.

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Alden Hall was recently buzzing with students as young as 8 during an “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” workshop. Although it looked the girls were doing an art project, they were actually learning about engineering.

The goal was to use only paper and build a structure that would support a stack of heavy books.

Sara Saeed, 11, thought the program was fun because it allowed her to see different kinds on engineering.

Katie Picchione was one of the WPI engineering students who volunteered her time and expertise. She said she wished she had this type of hands-on exposure to engineering when she was younger.

“Simple activities like this, building a tower, it puts everything in perspective. Engineering is not just all hard crazy science, and calculus and formulas, it’s something real,” said Picchione.

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Despite the need for workers skilled in technology, there is a shortage of women studying these subjects.

A survey by found that 92-percent of the mechanical engineering students are men. The numbers are similar in electrical engineering, physics, and math.

WPI admissions officer Sue Sontgerath believes many girls don’t really know what these fields are all about. She believes the secret is to get them hooked on math and science, before being smart becomes uncool.

Sontgerath believes engineering and industry as a whole would benefit from more diversity.

“We have products that are being created by teams that are not diverse, and you know some of the results of that can be questionable at best.”


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Paula Ebben