Engineering students win grand prize and first, second and third place

Three-hundred and fifty words were all it took for Emma Smith, a Penn State junior civil engineering student, to win a $1,000 scholarship. Out of 118 applicants, her essay won first place in the 2010 Stilettos to Steeltoes competition. In addition to Smith's first-place finish, Ginger Gronski, chemical engineering student, and Adrienne Crivaro, mechanical engineering student, placed second and third, respectively; and the College of Engineering took home the grand prize, beating out 14 other colleges.

The competition, hosted by Schlumberger and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), asked female engineering students from colleges across the country to submit essays for a chance to win cash prizes and raise money for their school's engineering programs. The competition began in September and concluded Oct. 1.

Essays were required to be 100 to 350 words and describe where women engineers thought their nontraditional jobs would take them, and creativity was encouraged. The essay prompt was simple and to the point: "What kind of footprints do you want to make?"

Penn State dominated the competition with 118 total entries, winning the grand prize of $2,000 for having the most essays, plus an additional $100 for each essay. Purdue University submitted the second-highest number with 58.

But despite Penn State’s eventual dominance, third-place winner Adrienne Crivaro said its women were lacking in entries with only one week left in the competition.

"We only had, like, three essays," she admitted. "We were losing to Purdue and it made us pretty upset," the mechanical engineering junior said, adding that soon before essays were due, an SWE meeting helped the women pull together and motivate each other to enter.

Crivaro used humor in her essay when describing the physical footprints of women engineers compared to men.

"I played off [Stilettos to Steeltoes]. Guys wear really big shoes and they make an imprint walking down trails in life — they make big footprints," she explained. "But girls wear stilettos, so we have strong calves and have a stronger step and make deeper imprints, but not as big of footprints."

Smith won first place by writing about her bravery when it comes to being a minority in the field as a woman.

"I'm not intimidated by the fact that engineering is mainly male-dominated," she admitted. "I know that I love engineering, and I'm not going to let anything get in the way of me doing what I like."

Similarly to Crivaro, Penn State runner-up Ginger Gronski played off of the physical aspect of the "Stilettos to Steeltoes" name, writing about shoes.

"I wrote about how in my future career I wanted variety, like how you have a lot of different shoes and a lot of different roles you could do in your career that are a good fit for you — I want to try them all out," Gronski, a chemical engineering junior, discussed.

Gronski said she was surprised that she placed in the top three because she has never considered herself a good writer.

"I like numbers better," she joked.

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Last Updated November 23, 2010