After Kara Novotny attended a Society of Women Engineers event called Day on Campus while she was in high school, she knew she wanted to pursue engineering at the University of Wisconsin.
Now, Novotny is a senior studying Mechanical Engineering and is the Community Service Chair for the Society of Women Engineers. Her most recent project is putting together an event called the Tie Blanket Bash, which will take place Sunday.
At the event, female students at Madison majoring in Engineering or Computer Science will come together to make blankets for Madison-area children’s hospitals and shelters, she said.
The Tie Blanket Bash looks to serve two different purposes, she said. Besides making the blankets, the event also serves as a networking opportunity for females in Engineering and Computer Science to come together and interact with people they might not get to talk to every day.
Novotny said the idea for the Tie Blanket Bash came to her because of obstacles she and SWE faced in the past when trying to volunteer directly with local children’s hospitals. To get volunteers into the children’s hospitals, you have to take a whole series of medical tests and it is hard to get interaction with the children, she said.
“I thought a good way to meet them halfway is to give back to them halfway,” she said. “Making tie blankets seemed like a really good idea.”
After she got the idea for the Tie Blanket Bash, Novotny realized she had no budget for the project. Novotny then applied for a grant that was giving out $10,000 in total for projects aimed at community service.
“After I read the description, I knew that the event in my mind really encompassed what they were looking for,” Novotny said.
Novotny received a grant for $1,000 from the Suzanne and Richard Pieper Family Foundation.
Novotny said UW student Eliana Burkoff will be speaking at the event. Burkoff volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization where Burkoff is paired up with an eight-year-old girl that she will work with until the girl graduates high school, she said.
“To devote your time like that is really special,” Novotny said. “In college [most] people focus on themselves, […] but [Burkoff] gives up her time to help this little girl.”
She said she hopes Burkoff’s speech will inspire more students to push their limits in what they can do to involve themselves in community service.
Novotny said in fields like engineering and computer science, females are in the minority, making up only about 20 percent of the field. SWE aims to promote engineering to college students as well as encouraging high school girls to explore the field.
Novotny said she wanted to express how important it is for students to get involved with organizations that apply to their majors early on in their college career. Through SWE, Novotny said she was able to make an event she had imagined into a reality.
Opportunities like the ones found in college are not always available in the real world and college organizations provide unique opportunities to make ideas happen, she said.
“Funds are out there, and people are willing to fund a good idea — one that especially benefits other people,” Novotny said.