Engineering Program accustoms to new normal

The Femineer Program is functioning differently this year due to COVID-19.


Reagan King

Sophomore Caroline Lubbe works with KU volunteer mentor Darene Essa during a femineer meeting.

The Femineer Program, a national program for engineering that is held at Blue Valley Northwest, had to make changes to their program this year due to COVID-19. The three year program empowers K-12 female students to develop the skills and confidence needed to pursue careers in STEM.
BVNW teacher Karen Stohlmann, advises and coordinates the program alongside teachers Karen Triebel and Michele Ratigan. When the virus first hit last year, Stohlmann said the Femineers were unable to continue meeting and working on their projects.
“It was just stopped short in its tracks last year and sadly, the seniors didn’t get to take their projects. That piece was sad but we’re just staying in our rooms, using one bathroom and doing temperature checks at the beginning [of each meeting],” Stohlmann said. “We’re trying to be really safe to make sure that we don’t make matters worse.”
Depending on which year they are in, members of the program work on projects involving robotics, wearable electronics and raspberry pi bots throughout the school year. Sophomore Caroline Lubbe, second year member of the program, said they were unable to continue their projects from last year and had to start from scratch.
“Everyone has their own individual project which is abnormal for us as we usually work in teams which is a big skill for Femineers,” Lubbe said. “We usually need a full day but now we have half days, and we’re meeting slightly more often but it’s not as much work time.”
Stohlmann said it is disappointing that the Femineers are unable to go on any field trips this year due to COVID-19.
“The first year girls always go to the Carpenter’s Union and the second year girls go to Electrician’s Union and we try to take the third year girls somewhere, but we couldn’t do that. We’ve lost relationships with the field trips, with the electricians and carpenters, and having people come visit which I miss,” Stohlmann said.
Every year the Femineers hold a showcase, sharing the projects they work on throughout the school year. Although they were unable to have a showcase last year, Stohlmann said they are planning on holding one at BVNW this year, despite the challenges COVID-19 has presented.
“We present to the public and invite staff members, family, friends, parents and people from the community to see what the girls have done and ask some questions,” Stohlmann said.
Senior Kylie Braun said she appreciates all the program has done for her during this difficult time.
“I have stayed in the program longer than most do due to COVID, so being able to come back and have the program at all as a person who has been at it for four years has really been a gift. I think I’m pretty lucky that we have anything at all,” Braun said.
Moving forward, Stohlmann said she is hopeful that the Femineers will be able to interact more with mentors and other students next year.
“Everybody’s invited us back to do all the things we normally get to do. I would love for the girls to talk to students that are in college that came from Blue Valley. There is a lot of power in older girls talking to younger girls. I really believe if you can see her, you can be her,” Stohlmann said.