Party for Women Engineers and Computer Scientists
July 30, 2008 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Help me brainstorm a good social event for women in my Computer Science and Engineering Departments.

I am both student and staff at my Universities Faculty of Engineering (which includes the Computer Science Department), and I need to come up with ideas for a rockin' event for this September that is run through our branch of Women in Engineering and Computer Science.

We all have in common the fact that we are involved in Engineering and/or Computer Science, but the group differs in that it is spread across undergraduates, grad students, faculty, and staff.

In an event held this summer, we had some console games (a Wii and Rockband), puzzles spread around the room (rubiks cubes, 16 puzzles, recursive puzzles), and food. We also took a survey from the (relatively small group) to find out what kind of events these women like. All of them reported enjoying social events, and roughly 50% wanted to participate in each of our other events (personal development, overnight retreats, educational lectures by female scholars etc).

The question is what should we do? I hesitate to repeat the console games unless we have something else to include. Basic mixers usually result in people only speaking with people they already know. Although serving alcohol is always a winner, that excludes the under 19 crowd. I don't want to just serve pizza and let people mingle again, but I can't seem to get my brain to work past that.

Our resources include a modest budget, rooms we can book on campus, outdoor green areas, and enthusiastic volunteers.
posted by billy_the_punk to Human Relations (11 answers total)
Best answer: The two things that come to my mind are Cranium (if you get multiple copies) and a campus-wide scavenger hunt. It should be easy to break people into teams/groups by relatively arbitrary lines, such as birth month, thus forcing mingling among people who don't already know each other.
posted by knile at 11:36 AM on July 30, 2008

What about something like a poker tournament? Give all attendees some amount of chips to start with, have some prizes of varying worth (maybe restaurant gift certificates for nearby tasty places, a big prize of something else who knows), and go at it from there? I guess the issue with that is that it doesn't give much of a free come-and-go atmosphere, but you could generalize it to a "casino night" with a specific tournament for those who choose to enter, and more social other tables.

Otherwise, I am a fan of board and card games, and would encourage those. Some of the simpler-to-learn of the "german board games," like Settlers and the like are fun, and you can get people to play and interact with those who aren't just their friends.

Depending on the size of your group, you could do pick-up outdoor sports-like things, frisbee and the like. I'm a fan of volleyball, and playing on grass can be fun, though I'm not entirely sure what the cost of a net is--looks to be between $250 and $300. When I was an undergraduate at CMU, our advisor ran a Friday-in-good-weather volleyball game, and it was a good way to get out and do something physical, and I met a lot of good people that way. I guess that wouldn't be a one-time event so much as a more regular one.
posted by that girl at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2008

I hate to stick women into the crafting club, but I would seriously love an evening spent doing a Design Your Own Tech T-Shirt activity. With, you know, stencils and iron on transfers and fabric paints and V-NECK T-SHIRTS.

Going to tech conferences and never, ever getting a t-shirt that is not clearly designed and sized for men is one of my pet peeves.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:09 PM on July 30, 2008

I'd actively avoid overtly girly stuff, like shoe shopping, spas or pedicures. Poker is a great idea. Try kayaking or a day working on a house for Habitat.

Also, field trips to the nearest co-location site, large broadband provider, or anything sufficiently geeky, esp. if there are female execs, engineers, etc., who can meet & greet, and maybe do mentoring. The key to success for women in technology is staying in and being successful. Networking help a lot, so events that are interesting and provide networking and/or mentoring opportunities are good.
posted by theora55 at 12:10 PM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: Nthing poker. Poker is a fun, social game, and most of the time experienced players and/or the dealer will help inexperienced players learn the basics. Poker is seen as a very male dominated activity but really anyone can play.

My school's main CS club had an annual casino night where the CS professors would be the dealers at all of the tables. Anyone with a school ID that showed up was given a certain amount of chips, and there were prizes at the end of the night (some random, some for having the most chips).
posted by burnmp3s at 12:32 PM on July 30, 2008

Poker is a good one. Also kareoke/sing-alongs, but that usually requires booze. How strict is the age enforcement at your school? If you can get away with the wristband policy its definitely a good way to get people to come out. Seeing how you appear to be in BC they might just show up stoned anyway.

What about a prank? That's also a nice way to get people mobilized, working together and get some attention and its not as girly as a bake sale.
posted by captaincrouton at 2:03 PM on July 30, 2008

Cookout with outdoor games (croquet, bocce, badminton, beachball volleyball, etc)

A panel discussion on career advice for women (or whatever is a general topic of interest) in the field, with say 5 presenters, followed by a dinner where each presenter sits at a different table and audience members can sit with them and eat and talk more informally.

For a more regular thing: movie night; cards night (poker for some, bridge or oh hell or other game for others), Friday afternoon coffee or pizza/beer, reading group on some topic of interest (could meet every other Saturday at a coffeeshop)

Project + food. Building one of those lego robotics kits; tournament of improvised cars or boats (you provide some basic materials and randomly-assigned teams build the best car/boat they can in 2 hours, then races)...
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:35 PM on July 30, 2008

Also kareoke/sing-alongs

Rock Band is karaoke, but way better. Get a project from the department, find someone with a console and the gear and set it up. Obviously this won't keep everyone entertained, but when things are in more of a "mixer" mode, it's pretty fantastic.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:16 PM on July 30, 2008

Anyone familiar with the card game Dutch Blitz? It's like the game Speed but a little more complex and with a custom deck, which I think makes it more intense (more cards flying about the table).

But this game only allows 4 (or 8) people to play at a time. As a fun way to make this card game more unique as well as scale it up to allow 20-30 people playing the same game, we literally scaled it up. We made a GIANT deck (each card was 2 feet x 3.5 feet) and played in a large open area. We played in 4 teams of 6-7. We allowed max of 2 "runners" per team in the Dutch piles area at a time because our open area was not that large.

Extremely fun. By the end, we were collapsing on top of the piles of cards as our beds. We were so tired from all the running, but mostly from the laughing and screaming!

And it was cheap. We just asked people to collect large cardboard boxes that they were going to throw away. Ask your enthusiastic volunteers to cut up and paint and you're good to go. (We got our paint from the mistinted section at the hardware store).

And you could have a regular-sized version for people that may not want so much physical activity.

The game:
posted by cheemee at 8:22 PM on July 30, 2008

Speed networking is good - you divide the room into pairs of chairs and blow a whistle every 5 minutes. It means that people have spoken to a group of strangers before you end up with the mingle bit.

The other thing that can work is person bingo - everyone has a card with a number of different categories (owns a computer more than 15 years old, has more then 20 console games, can program in ada, has three degrees, ...) and the first person to get a "line" wins a prize.
posted by handee at 3:29 AM on July 31, 2008

Depending on size of the crowd: book and/or clothing swap, with leftovers going to a local women's charity, such as a shelter or Dress For Success.
posted by knile at 1:56 PM on July 31, 2008

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