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Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE)

ONWiE is a unique and innovative collaboration among the 16 schools and faculties of engineering and applied science in Ontario. Its mandate is to work collaboratively to promote the participation of women in engineering by supporting female engineers and engineering students. For 11 years, this network has developed outreach programs and has established crucial best practices for positive messages, instilling confidence in girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The network was formed in 2005, with Dr. Valerie Davidson at the helm, to fulfill the need to share resources among the schools and faculties of engineering and applied science and to fully address the persistent under-representation of women in engineering. The current ONWiE chair is Dr. Mary Wells, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering and the Associate Dean of Outreach at the University of Waterloo.

Inspiring the public’s knowledge of engineering

In October 2005, ONWiE launched its flagship outreach program Go ENG Girl, an annual, province-wide, one-day event for girls in grades 7 through 10 and their parents about the engineering profession and the range of careers available in engineering fields. Today, this program is recognized across Canada as a leading outreach program. Universities in four other provinces have begun implementing it.

In 2011, ONWiE initiated its Girl Guide Badge Day program in which girls in the Girl Guides (grades 4 to 6) and Pathfinders (grades 7 to 9) can spend one day with ONWiE members to fulfill their requirements for their “Engineering, Science and Technology” badge. In early 2015, ONWiE introduced Go Code Girl, which focuses on software and computer engineering programs. To date, eleven ONWiE locations have offered this outreach program, and close to 1,000 girls from grades 7 to 11 have participated.

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Dr. Jeremy McNeil

Dr. Jeremy McNeil has been actively involved in different aspects of science outreach for more than four decades. He is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Biology at Western University, where he teaches behavioural and chemical ecology of insects.

A key interaction sparked his interest in public awareness decades ago. When showing his neighbours’ seven-year-old son a hornworm caterpillar from his garden, the young boy stared for a minute and then squashed it in the palm of his hand. When McNeil asked why he did that, the boy replied, "Insects are not nice.” Ever since, McNeil has attempted not only to educate the public about insects (and hopefully reduce insecticide use) but also to instill a real appreciation for the natural world around us.

Dr. McNeil has presented to school children of all ages and backgrounds, both by visiting schools personally and by participating at regional or national events for groups such as Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada. He has spoken in various parts of the world, including Australia, England, France, Thailand, Taiwan and the United States. The acclaimed biologist has been featured in many radio and TV interviews in English and French and serves as a resource person in the preparation of science programs for TV and radio.

Dr. McNeil’s reputation as “Monsieur Bibitte” in the Quebec school system turned him into the perfect collaborator to write a children’s book discussing how you become a researcher. As a result of this, he was invited by Nature to review a number of science books written for young children.

Dr. McNeil also reaches the broader public by presenting at gardening or nature clubs. He finds time to speak with farmers and exterminators on general topics such as alternatives to pesticides for pest control or specific pest problems in different crops. As a keen photographer, he uses many of his own photos in his presentations.