Sparks flew Friday from the torches for 70 suburban high school students -- many of them girls -- who participated in the first Women in Construction Exploration Day at Technology Center of DuPage in Addison.
The event, hosted by Northern Michigan University's construction management program, gathered the students for hands-on introductions to welding, building, electrical wiring and virtual reality.
Torches in hand, participants got to fashion a dragonfly from various metal parts. They also built a toolbox, learned the electrical wiring to install a Nest smart thermostat and toured a prototype building through a virtual reality experience.
"We are just really excited to introduce construction -- from a trade all the way through management concepts to a population that isn't well-represented in the industry," said Heidi Blanck, an associate professor of technology and occupational sciences in the Northern Michigan University construction management program.
Northern Michigan has hosted a similar Women in Construction Exploration day for high schoolers on its campus in Marquette for about the past five years, Blanck said. The school looked to the Technology Center of DuPage to expand the event as a recruiting tool in the Chicago area.
Careers in construction aren't going away, Blanck said, so the field is worth exploring for young women and men.
"I think it's really important for young adults, for high school students to attend as many of these types of events as they can because you can learn what you like and you can also rule something out with just a one-day commitment," Blanck said. "If you find it's awesome, then you get to explore further and take it as far as you want. If you find out it's not for you, it was one day of your life."