Pink Hardhats camp introduces young women to a traditionally male industry

June 17, 2015 Pink Hardhat Days - PKI Atrium Group Portrait
A group portrait of the 2015 Pink Hardhats Days for Girls Camp participants in the Peter Kiewit Institute Atrium.

By Arthur Nguyen, Gateway Photographer

Pink hard hats in a construction zone? Yep, that’s right.

Several high school students participated in the “Pink Hardhat Days for Girls” camp last week at the Peter Kiewit Institute on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Pacific Campus.

The three-day camp — which selects young women from Omaha and Lincoln school districts — is held annually to get young girls interested in construction, civil and architectural engineering.

Led by Terri Norton, Ph.D., associate professor of construction engineering with UNL’s Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction, the goal of the three-day camp is to show girls that they are not limited in career options because of their gender.

The girls met female industry professionals at Omaha’s Peter Kiewit Institute, participated in icebreakers, hands-on projects and toured the Henry Doorly Zoo African Grasslands construction hosted by the Kiewit Building Group.

PKI Earthquake Structures Research Demo
PKI Earthquake Structures Research Demo

In this image, Norton explains the design of a building model designed to be more resistant to earthquake damage. The two models are entered in a competition where they are placed on a ‘shake table’ which moves the platform upon which the models are placed, varying the strength and movement pattern to simulate real-world, historical earthquakes.

The girls attend a presentation inside the PKI Lighting Room
The girls attend a presentation inside the PKI Lighting Room

An undergraduate tour guide demos the PKI Lighting Room, which is equipped with overhead lights of several colors and placements to research the effects of lighting on how colors, objects, and human skin are perceived by the eyes.

“Current UNL students and local female professionals volunteer and engage with the participants by sharing the ‘Day in the Life/ College experience’ stories,” Norton said.

“In the three years of offering this camp there have been 62 girls participate, from high schools in the Omaha and Lincoln areas.”

For more information about the program, visit