Encouraging Women in STEM Through Hands-On Internships

With the current skills-gap looming over the heads of just about everyone in the manufacturing sector, it’s clear that something has to change. Industrial companies need to widen the net to find talent. For many, this involves offering apprenticeships and internships to students. It also means opening the doors to more women in this field.

Female Engineers
Ji Ku, left, and Vanessa Pescatore on the shop floor at PFERD

In an effort to widen our recruitment efforts, PFERD has been offering internships to college engineering majors. This summer, we were proud to onboard two female engineering interns. Here are their stories.

Vanessa Pescatore – Mechanical Engineering Junior at Marquette University 

From a young age, Vanessa has been interested in engineering, taking classes throughout high school. Her teacher encouraged her to pursue mechanical engineering, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“My proudest moment was second semester freshman year when my design team placed third in the KEEN design challenge,” she said. “It was a month long design project that focused on conserving energy. I co-lead the team in making a working prototype for our project that granted us third place out of 17 teams.”

Here at PFERD, Vanessa works with other interns and engineers to design structures that will make production more efficient, as well as re-designing molds to make the brush making process faster and easier.

Back at school, she has her hands full with a number of leadership roles: She is the Philanthropy Chair for Alpha Omega Epsilon- the engineering and technical science sorority, where she organized and led a fundraiser to donate to The Girl Effect; she is a chartering member and Vice President of fellowship for Alpha Phi Omega,  the service fraternity; she is a member of the SAE Baja team to design, build, and race a baja car against other teams across the country – and she was the first female driver for one of Marquette’s cars this past winter; she was also a teaching assistant for the general engineering class for freshman engineers.

“My advice to other women considering this field would be to make sure you actually love what you are doing,” she said. “And to focus on what you actually want to do with the rest of your life while ignoring what society thinks you are supposed to do.”

Ji Ku – Mechanical Engineering Junior at Marquette University with a Minor in Math

Ji’s first introduction to engineering took place in high school through the FIRST Robotics competition, in which she competed on a team.

“It gave me a chance to do lots of hands-on work so I was able to learn how to use all the power tools,” she said. “I really enjoyed this experience so I decided to choose engineering as my major.”

From there she has continued to learn and grow as an engineer. Her biggest accomplishment thus far actually came while interning at PFERD.

“When I first got the molds that I designed and ordered from the tooling company, and saw operators using them, it was the biggest moment for me,” she said.  “It was exciting to see good brushes from the molds that I designed.”

She’s also been able to learn a lot about working internationally. Coming from South Korea originally, she’s been able to immerse herself in American education and manufacturing, learning the nuances of our language and culture.

“Throughout my internship experience, I have been learning a lot everyday not only about engineering but also about the professional work environment,” she said.

As a leading manufacturing of cutting, grinding, and finishing tools, PFERD is proud to work with the next generation of design engineers and help them perfect their craft. Even now, their talent is obvious, and we are excited to see what they produce in the future.