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A Note from the President
By Christiana Aguirre

April was a great month for SWE-Central IL. The finance committee officially kicked off the FY21 SWE Central IL Scholarship Fundraiser Campaign. All members and friends of SWE Central IL should have already received a letter asking for donations for our scholarship funds. If you are able to donate, please do so. There are many young women that need financial assistance to pursue their dreams of becoming an engineer. Our goal is to increase our scholarship endowment by $10,000. You can also check if your company has a matching gift program, and your gift can go even further.

During the month of April, the Outreach Committee organized our first virtual STEM BootCamp for High School Girls. It was a very successful event, with great feedback from the kids.  It is amazing how the Outreach Committee has been able to adapt their events to this virtual world that we are currently living in. The membership committee has also been very creative in keeping our members engaged. They organized our first ever virtual movie night which was the documentary Code Bias; after watching we also had an opportunity to discuss. The team also organized a Virtual-Live Comedy Show “No Ohms Barred – A Comedy Fundraiser for Future Engineers”. Nine comedians from California donated their time to make us laugh for one hour and a half. The show was also a scholarship fundraiser event and we are very grateful for the generosity of our members. Another virtual movie event will be coming up in June. I hope you can join us!

In May, we will be celebrating the FY21 SWE Central IL Awards Winners. The Awards Committee has been busy evaluating the nominations and this year we got a record number of nominations. What a pleasure to see our members engaged and celebrating each other successes.  The Awards Ceremony will be on May 13th (see below for details). I hope to see you all there! This year will be a virtual event and the Professional and Award Committees are preparing a fantastic celebration.

In mid-April, I got the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I feel very blessed to live in a country that is able to provide the vaccine to its population, so fast and so efficiently. I believe we can beat this virus and get back to a more normal life. My heart goes to people from developing countries where the virus is taking so many lives. People from Brazil, India, South Africa and so many other countries in Latin America and Africa have been suffering with lack of medications and vaccines. If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to take the vaccine, so we can get back to celebrating SWE with our members, in person. Take care!


Upcoming Events

Awards Committee
SWE-CI Awards Ceremony with Guest Speaker Karen Jensen (President & CEO of Farnsworth Group):

Please join the celebration as we present SWE Central Illinois award winners for 2020 and listen to guest speaker Karen Jensen. Award winners are Ursula Towne for Distinguished Member Award, Yanchai Zhang for Outstanding Engineer Award, Melanie Willi for Outstanding Advocate Award, and Gary Uken for Pillar of Support Award.

Date: Thursday, May 13th
Time: 4:30 -6 PM
Where: On Teams Click here to join the meeting

Work Life Integration Committee
Yoga and Wine Tasting Event:

On Sunday, June 6th from 4-6:30pm we will be hosting a Yoga and Wine Tasting Event at Kickapoo Winery. Yoga will be provided from Soulside Healing Arts from 4-5pm then followed by wine tasting in the Kickapoo Winery Tasting Room.  This event is open to both members and the general public.

Date: Sunday, June 6th
Time: 4-6:30 PM
Where: Kickapoo Winery
Member - $15
General Public - $20
Sign Up: Please RSVP by going HERE and reserving your spot by June 1st.

Any questions please contact Heather Ulrich at


SWE-CI Needs You! FY22 Call for Elections

Members, be sure to vote for FY22 SWE-CI leaders in the election survey that is in your inboxes! The election survey closes May 23rd. Here is the slate of candidates:
President-Elect: Aisling Hinderliter, Lisa Walliker, Thuong Le
Secretary: Harika Sutari, Heather Ulrich, Laura Ruiz-Santamaria, Lauren Duvall
Treasurer: Laura Ruiz-Santamaria, Lauren Duvall, Liza Kornilova

SWE-CI Scholarship Donation Help

In 2011, the SWE-CI scholarship endowment began awarding $1000 to one female engineering student each year. Since then, the investment has grown to allow for an award stipend of $1750. To help combat the rising costs of education, SWE-CI has set a goal to grow the endowment at least $10,000 to further increase the award amount. Each member of SWE-CI should be receiving a letter in the mail with information and instructions on how to donate to this worthy cause.  Please consider donating today!


SWE-CI Membership Spotlight: Asha George

Greetings and well wishes to everyone. I am Asha George, currently working in Supply Chain as an analyst at Caterpillar in Morton. 

 I am originally from India but was born and raised in Africa. I did my high school, engineering and MBA in India, then trailed my husband  post marriage to Seattle, WA where I found my interest  in a career in Supply Chain while working for a company that handled the supply chain operations for Boeing. I enjoy reading, hiking and travelling a lot and wish to be able to do a lot more of that. 

It is within my space in Supply Chain, that I grew to appreciate the importance of visibility, trust and networking and I was able to witness firsthand how these skills were vital in bringing things globally scattered into one unified cause.

I see the same being emulated in SWE outside of a professional domain, be it in the foresight in encouraging young girls to try out a career in STEM to build a strong future for women, the opportunity for networking that brings women together or the outreach initiatives that foster trust in the community. My association with SWE-CI, specifically within the Professional Development Committee has been for close to 2 years now and I feel proud to be in the family. 


SWE-CI Award Winners 

The SWE Central Illinois Awards committee is pleased to announce the FY2021 SWE Central IL award recipients:

Gary Uken is the recipient of the Pillar of Support Award. This award recognizes individuals who have consistently support and/or sponsored SWE’s mission and organization over the years.  Gary is the Executive Sponsor of the Caterpillar – SWE relationship. He leads the Caterpillar SWE Steering Committee that sets the direction for leveraging SWE to help Caterpillar attract, develop, and recognize women. Gary Uken is currently the Director of Engineering for Caterpillar Earthmoving Division. 

Ursula Towne is the Distinguished Member Award recipient. This award honors women who are actively engaged in the SWE Central Illinois Professional Section. Ursula inspires and support furthering technical understanding and interest in STEM through her passionate involvement as the SWE Outreach Co-Chair.  She also shares her time and knowledge with other community organizations such as United Way, Rebuilding Together, EP!C, and Dream Center of Peoria.  Ursula is an Engineering Project Team Lead at Caterpillar.

Yanchai Zhang has been selected as the Outstanding Engineer Award recipient. This award honors women who have made significant contributions in the field of engineering and/or technical management. Yanchai has 30+ patents, two Caterpillar 2017 Innovation Chairman Excellence Awards, and a SWE 2020 Patent Recognition Award. She is the Chair of the Caterpillar Controls Technical Community. Yanchai is also involved with community organizations such as Rebuilding Together and America Cancer. 

Melanie Willie is the Outstanding Advocate Award recipient. This award honors women who advocate for the inclusion and success of women, both present and prospective, in engineering and technology. Besides advocating for her fellow SWE members in the Decatur area, she also volunteers at SWE-CI outreach events and mentors college students as well as CAT interns. She also shares her time and knowledge with other community organizations such as United Way and the Soup Kitchen. Melanie is a Senior Engineer Design at Caterpillar. 

April Events

Thank you to all the dedicated volunteers contributing their time to help SWE support successful events throughout April!

Outreach Committee:

SWE STEM Career Exploration Badge for Girl Scouts: 
SWE CI collaborated with the collegiate SWE chapter at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. The U of I students designed a curriculum for Girl Scouts to earn the brand-new STEM career exploration badge. Saturday’s virtual event reached girls from Bloomington, Peoria and Champaign. The scouts were able to do hands on activities in Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Civil Engineering with materials provided by U of I SWE. It was also a special opportunity to hear the U of I student’s personal stories of how they got interested in their engineering majors. 

Good job inspiring future women engineers- SWE U of I!

SWE UIUC Little Sisters: 
On April 16th, Little Sisters Virtual Weekend was hosted by SWE-UIUC, sponsored by Caterpillar with speaker Ursula Towne and Panel guests Kea Evans and Jenna Kummerer, where nearly 100 admitted engineering women ("Little Sisters") can interact with current engineering students to get a good look at what it means to be a Grainger Engineering student at University Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Annual Virtual STEM Bootcamp 2021: 
The 6th annual STEM bootcamp this year was great. It was an engaging three part event that utilized the one-one format in Zoom breakout rooms with the students. Students learned about resume writing, interviewing, tips for college success, and a real life engineering example of creating PPE with 3-D printers. The Mars buggies were darned cool to make as well! It was an exemplar effort in collaboration- with coordination from Nicole Warnstedt, Sowmya Nagesh and partnership between SWE-CI, SWE-Bradley, NSBE and University of Illinois extension 4-H. Thanks to all the volunteers and session leaders!

SWE-CI and 4H: 
SWE-CI and 4H Collaborated on April 25th to learned about volcanoes and chemical reactions in the 4H Spark Series Virtual Outreach event.

Work-Life Integration Committee:

Dance (WERQ) Event:

WERQ Virtual Dance Class: On Tuesday, March 23, some of our ladies in SWE spent their evening enjoying a fun, high energy dance workout class run by Hilary Stevens, a certified WERQ instructor. Everyone enjoyed moving to popular songs sang by women and left with some sweat and a smile. Thanks to all that were able to come to this great event! If you are interested in more WERQ classes, please reach out to Nicole Warnstedt at and she can connect you with Hilary’s Facebook page to enjoy more classes.

Membership Committee:

SWE-CI Streaming of Coded Bias: 
SWE Central Illinois hosted a screening of the movie ‘Coded Bias’. The movie showcases the inherent bias in algorithms and machine learning that is used in Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition. There were over 60 members who watched it. After the first screening, there was a discussion on current state of machine learning with Nupoor Gandhi from University of Illinois and Analytics leaders such as Fiona O’Laughlin and Ann Peedikayil from Caterpillar.

The movie takes a closer look at how artificial intelligence has overlooked a huge segment of our population. "Centering on the voices of women leading the charge to ensure our civil rights are protected, Coded Bias asks two key questions: what is the impact of Artificial Intelligence’s increasing role in governing our liberties? And what are the consequences for people stuck in the crosshairs due to their race, color, and gender?”

From Harvard HMS: Inequity in face recognition algorithms
Face recognition algorithms boast high classification accuracy (over 90%), but these outcomes are not universal. A growing body of research exposes divergent error rates across demographic groups, with the poorest accuracy consistently found in subjects who are female, Black, and 18-30 years old. In the landmark 2018 “Gender Shades” project, an intersectional approach was applied to appraise three gender classification algorithms, including those developed by IBM and Microsoft. Subjects were grouped into four categories: darker-skinned females, darker-skinned males, lighter-skinned females, and lighter-skinned males. All three algorithms performed the worst on darker-skinned females, with error rates up to 34% higher than for lighter-skinned males (Figure below). Independent assessment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has confirmed these studies, finding that face recognition technologies across 189 algorithms are least accurate on women of color.



To register or learn more, click on webinar below:

SWE Scholarships Support Women Pursuing Student Programs

SWE Scholarships support those who identify as a female/woman and are pursuing an ABET-accredited bachelor or graduate student program in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology and computer science globally. In 2020, SWE disbursed nearly 260 new and renewed scholarships valued at more than $1,000,000!

Applicants complete one application and are considered for all scholarships for which they are eligible. 
Sophomores through Graduate Students Application: December 1, 2020 - February 15, 2021
Freshmen Application: March 1, 2021 - May 1, 2021


Donate to SWE!

It’s not too late to Donate to SWE-CI - If your company matches donations, take advantage of donating now for organizations to get matching payments in Spring 2021.Click here for donations link!
Shop Amazon Smile - Donate to SWE

Shop at and amazon will donate 0.5% of eligible purchases to your favorite charitable organization—no fees, no extra cost. Click here to join!


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Yoga and Wine Tasting Event
Kickapoo Winery
June 6, 4-6:30 PM
Cost: Member $15 and General Public $20
Please sign up here

SWE-CI Section Awards Celebration
On Teams
May 13, 4:30 - 6 PM
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Mailing Address: P.O. Box 96, Mossville, IL 61552

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