San Francisco’s Phillip and Sala Burton HS at WSP

We had an inspiring IGNITE field trip to WSP, a building engineering firm, with 8 women in engineering technology volunteers with 42 San Francisco Philip and Sala Burton High School girls. Girls first had a tour of a real engineering firm, during the tour, our hosts pointed out some buildings that the company had worked on and some problems they encountered with the constraints of building in South of Market area. Students then learned about the different fields of engineering it takes to build and maintain a home. Students presented their findings together and were challenged to modify the model of a home they were given to make it more sustainable. After lunch, we had a panel of 8 volunteers from various engineering and technology start ups. Each volunteer shared their career story and mentioned how they got to where they are today, what obstacles they had to overcome to get to where they are today, and spoke about their jobs and what they do every day. After the raffle where IGNITE t-shirts were given away, we took a walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood learning more about the buildings that WSP helped design including the Sales Force Tower and the Transbay Terminal. This walking tour also included a learning about a few designated public spaces and the sinking building, the Millennium Tower.



The girls were able to ask questions and get a better understanding of various technology and engineering jobs are available to them, and how women chose their college majors and career paths. The girls loved the discussions and mentioned how inspired they were after the conversations.


Thank you to Claire McKenna from WSP for organizing multiple volunteers and for funding and arranging the food for the event.

Thank you to each of our IGNITE Volunteers, Alicia Herrera, Amanda Brownlee, Jillian Moritz, Caitlin Hiemer, Lilian Fu, Caroline Fenlon-Harding, and Laura Guzman. Each of these volunteers shared their stories with the girls, and it’s what makes this experience so relevant and valuable. The girls relate to the volunteers and see how similar they are to them: they went through a lot of things, did not have it easy, and had to work hard, but triumphed because they never gave up. It’s an amazing message and one that changes these girls’ lives forever. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories and answered questions with care and such thoughtfulness.


Here are the comments from the Student Evaluation surveys. The girls always say it best.

Knowing the different type of engineers there are and what they do and help not only people or companies but the environment on what they use. Grade 12.

Some highlights I enjoyed about the event were the personal stories of all the women. I also really liked the presentation of lighting. Grade 11

A highlight from today was the different career paths that were mentioned. I didn’t know lighting was its own thing like you could incorporate it into other aspects of life. I really liked the lighting thing because I found a way to incorporate it into my dreams.  Grade 11

I found everyone’s story to be very empowering.  Grade 12

I liked some of the stories that the women shared. They taught me that you can pursue anything you want and they were very encouraging. Grade 12

I enjoyed learning how people got into engineering and their stories. Grade 12

I enjoyed the activity where we wrote on the house and described how different components of household items and such are related to engineering. I also enjoyed the personal stories. Grade 12

I enjoyed seeing the environment that they worked in during the office tour. I liked hearing about their path and what prompted them to be who they are today. Grade 12

I enjoyed learning about the many parts of engineering and this event inspired me to go more into different choices. Grade 12

I enjoyed walking around and seeing people work and enjoyed the group activity. Grade 12

I enjoyed their motivational speeches of their career paths. Grade 9

I enjoyed the house labeling activity and the speeches. Grade 11

I liked touring the office and hearing the stories of the women. Grade 11

I enjoyed learning about how they got to their position today. Grade 12

I enjoyed the food and speeches of how you guys got into engineering. Grade 9

I liked being able to see the different types of engineering and how they rely on one another. I also liked looking at the [engineers’] desks and how they’re all different and have different personalities to them. Grade 12

I liked hearing everyone’s story and how they got to where they’re at now. Grade 12

I liked hearing the stories and experiences of the engineers and the activity. Grade 11

I liked hearing people’s stories and listening to how they got into the industry. Grade 9

I enjoyed the stories all the engineers shared because it inspired me to strive hard for what I love. Grade 11

I enjoyed looking at the building that was built by the same one as thte building we were in. Also the stories shared by the women. Grade 11

I enjoyed listening to the paths of the engineer and talking to them during lunch. Grade 11

The highlight from today was exploring the office and learning about the functions of this building and other ones nearby. It showed me how much thought was placed into things that most people don’t think about, like double glass windows for insulation and cooling. Grade 11

I enjoyed their views and stories on how they got here and what they do. This event did inspire me a lot. It got me interested a lot more in engineering. Grade 12

I liked hearing everyone’s story and different experiences, how we had women from different engineering paths and not only one. The tour was also fun. Grade 12

Some highlights are learning about plumbing engineering. Grade 9

I really enjoyed hearing how each of the women who presented got to their positions they’re in now. I realized that they had less resources than I did and that I feel the same way they did when they were my age. By listening to their stories, I feel more inspired to work harder to get into a good college to study astronomy. Grade 11

The few moments of touring the floor, looking at the buildings and the office was really nice. Hearing their personal stories and how they reached this point makes me think more about what I want to do. Grade 11

I liked when they talked about their stories, how they got here. I also liked when they talked to us during lunch.  Grade 12

One highlight was the women’s story about their experiences. This event inspired me to be more motivated and to strive toward my goal. Grade 11

My highlight of the day was learning about the different subfields of engineering and how they intertwine with one another. Grade 12

I enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories and learning more about the different fields in engineering. Grade 12

I love to listen to everyone’s background story because it was able to motivate me more on engineering. Grade 12

[One highlight was] hearing about the colleges they went to, as well as what buildings the company had worked on. Meeting other workers in the company and what they do. Grade 11

I liked walking around the office and exploring the workspace because now I know for sure I’ll be fine working in this environment. Grade 11

It was nice hearing about everyone’s stories and backgrounds of where they came from and how they got to where they are today. I hope the walking tour goes well because I think it’ll be one of my highlights. Grade 12

The highlights of today’s event was the tour and the stories. Grade 12

[One highlight was] talking about different careers in engineering. Grade 12

I enjoyed the stories of these women on becoming different types of engineers. Grade 12

[One highlight was] talking about the basics in our houses and the background they have. Grade 12

I liked learning about the female engineers’ stories and how they got to be where they are. Grade 12

I loved learning the individual backgrounds and stories of the women in the office. Grade 12