Thinkers Who Tinker – Women Inventors
Thinkers Who Tinker
Women Engineers and Inventors
Invention is all about identifying and solving problems. It is about taking risks, persevering and pushing forward with a concept. Through the ages, women engineers and inventors have contributed to the wealth of innovative ideas that have helped to better our lives. Unfortunately these inspiring women’s contributions have been overlooked in many cases and certainly do not roll off the tongue when one is asked to name an inventor. However, these extraordinary women are role models who should be included in any unit of study on inventions.
Every time you sit down at the computer say thank you to this amazing lady who led the computer world into the future.
“A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the U.S. Navy’s oldest active-duty officer at the time of her retirement, was the developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language, developer of UNIVAC I and COBOL, and coiner of the terms “computer bug” and “debugging.
Don’t just talk about those who walked on the moon, talk about who did the math calculations to get them there!
“KNOW HOW TO LEARN. THEN, WANT TO LEARN.”
Katherine Johnson was a space scientist who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Not only did she calculate the trajectory of Alan Shepard’s first flight into space, and John Glenn would not proceed with his trip until she checked the calculations of his mission’s trajectory. She worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center, and co-wrote twenty-four scientific papers, only one of which has ever been attributed to her.
Her vision of possibilities inspired her to improve others vision.
“The limits of science are not the limits of imagination.”
Dr. Patricia Bath is the first African-American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986. With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals, some of whom had been blind for more than 30 years.
She saw problems and thought of solutions.
“I invent because I cannot help myself.”
Beulah Louise Henry was an American inventor. In the 1930s, she was given the nickname “Lady Edison” for her many inventions. Her inventions include a bobbin-free sewing machine and a vacuum ice cream freezer. She had 49 patents and 110 inventions.
She invented a remarkable technology that changed our world and saved lives.
“All sorts of things can happen when you are open to new ideas and playing around with things”
Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar. Kevlar is used as a material in more than 200 applications as a reinforcing agent, including tennis rackets, skis, boats, airplanes, ropes, cables, tires, and bulletproof vests. It has been used for car tires, fire fighter boots, hockey sticks, cut-resistant gloves, and even armored cars. It has also been used to construct bomb proof building materials, hurricane safe rooms, and reinforce overtaxed bridge spans.
Alicia Dwyer Cianciolo
She is having an impact beyond Earth.
“It makes me feel that what I do really makes a difference.”
Alicia is part of a team at NASA designing satellites and rovers to explore our solar system. Much of her work has focused on ensuring that space crafts successfully orbit or safely land on the surface of Mars. Most recently she was a member of the Entry, Descent and Landing Team that delivered the Curiosity rover to Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012.
Celebrating women inventors in the classroom not only recognizes their contributions to the world, but also provides role models for your female students. It is important for both boys and girls alike to understand everyone, regardless if they are male or female, can attain their dreams through hard work and perseverance.
One way to integrate these great women inventors and engineers into history lessons is to follow-up with an engineering problem that has a relation to their accomplishment. For example, after you learn about Alicia Dwyer Cianciolo, have your students try their hand at designing a rover …with edible engineering!
This fun freebie engineering design project can be downloaded at:
The United States Patent and Trademark Office
Has a great outreach program on their website. Activities, links, and even inventor trading cards are available to download United States Patent Office
The Society of Women Engineers
Has an outreach program for girls up to age 18. Activities and events are regularly planned to inspire girls to explore the world of engineering. Society of Women Engineers
Highlights opportunities for girls in engineering careers. Includes links, profiles of women engineers, and interactive features. Engineer Girl
Girls Think of Everything – Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
By Catherine Thimmeah
Finally, we would like to share this quote from Jennifer Lin, an electrical engineer and computer scientist who is the Technical Lead for Google Search. She was asked what advice she would give to girls who want to become engineers.
“Keep learning to expand your knowledge. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or bounce ideas off of one another. Think about how you can help others when you’re building something. Find a mentor for career advice. And don’t give up!”
About the Authors
Wendy and Cheryl, of Get Caught Engineering, develop STEM materials on Teachers Pay Teachers and engineering workshops at schools and museums for families, teachers and students. They have raised five daughters and two sons who all have chosen STEM career paths in a wide range of fields. Their parental advice? Encourage attempts. Applaud perseverance. Let them make messes. Get out of the way as they soar!