Blog > Community Development Supporter Appreciation > Ohio State University to Launch a Female Engineering Volunteer Initiative

Saturday, July 26, 2014
Ohio State University to Launch a Female Engineering Volunteer Initiative
Katy Morris

After hearing of the extremely low ranking Guatemala received on the United Nations Geneder Inequality Index, an Ohio State University organization called Women in Engineering (WIE) is conducting research to launch an annual woman-centered engineering trip, operated through Mayan Families.  

At just 18 years old, Ohio State electrical and computer engineering major Mary Scherer is the pilot representative for the initiative, gathering all the information to approve funding for the trip while pioneering the educational practices that future students will employ. 

In essence, the program aims to deliver engineering solutions that will empower disadvantaged women in Central America while giving female engineers from Ohio State the opportunity to contend with gender inequality issues within the engineering field.

To initiate the project, Mary, her professor and a team of other students came to Guatemala to ferret out an NGO that utilizes special engineering strategies and also works to empower women. After meeting with several different NGO’s in the area, WIE chose Mayan Families as the launching pad for it’s fledgling initiative and shortly thereafter, Mary took up the mantle as the program’s guinea pig volunteer.

“Mayan Families was definitely the best fit for us with its many well-established, well-run programs and its great potential to expand. The work they do in Panajachel and elsewhere truly struck me, so I decided to apply and returned to Guatemala about one month later.” 

Keeping careful track of her spending, Mary is in charge of creating a budget and producing an information packet that will help future volunteers make a difference for years to come. After just over four weeks, she’s certain the program will be a great success.

“Just halfway through my time here, this experience has been enormously fulfilling. I would definitely recommend this unique opportunity to others. It is a chance to make a lasting impact in the lives of others while encountering a beautiful new culture.” 

Working with indigenous children on a day-to-day basis, Mary works to get kids interested in science and technology using easy-to-build experiments that explain scientific concepts. Additionally, she is teaching computer classes to our Panajachel preschoolers so they can be exposed to technology from an early age.

“It is always rewarding to watch the students explain the science that they learned to their parents and siblings as they bring their experiments home after school. It is awesome to be able to see the circle of influence that these science classes have expanding to reach people outside of the classroom.”

Looking ahead, Mary is optimistic that this program will not only benefit Mayan Families and the indigenous communities within the Lake Atitlan region, but it will also stand as a champion initiative for equal rights and the empowerment of women everywhere.

“Experiencing volcanic hikes, flooding rains, and an earthquake after only three weeks in Guatemala, I have realized that the world is constantly changing. But while teaching here in Panajachel, I have also realized that as a woman in engineering, I too am changing the world.”

To learn more about how you can get involved with Mayan Families, visit our Volunteer Page! 

To learn more about our this initiative, please email

Thank you to Volunteer Jessica Beder for the contribution of this blog. 






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