Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

This last Saturday I volunteered at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, put on by the University of Texas at Austin’s Women in Engineering Program:

There were 2,500+ girls in 1st-8th grade wandering around the engineering block of UT’s campus, exploring different activities facilitated by north of 700 volunteers. I can only speak to my own experience (I didn’t get to see every activity), but I think it was a really fun and worthwhile experience.

In our room, we had the “Don’t Sink the Titanic” activity. Basically this consisted of giving the girls 1 square foot of aluminum foil, 1 foot of masking tape, a couple rubber bands, two straws and 6 popsicle sticks… using that hodge-podge of materials, they construct the best and strongest boat they can, and compete to see whose boat can hold the most golf balls without sinking.

Trying to hold as many golf balls as possible!
Trying to hold as many golf balls as possible!

The record was 46!

To put that in perspective… the most one of the volunteers was able to get was 33. These girls were pretty amazing.

Getting girls and young women excited about the so-called STEM areas of study (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for the uninitiated), has long been a concern for education and science policy. It’s events like this that can try to help reduce the gender-gap in these areas by getting girls excited about building things and creatively solving problems.

But we still have a long way to go. Events like this one can plant the seed, but it will take a sustained effort by parents and educators at all levels to help that seed flourish and bear fruit.

I work in a research group of about 17 people. Two of them are women. That’s a ratio that needs to change. The good news is that it is (slowly) changing. And with a vigilant and sustained effort, we can get more girls excited about science.

So, go ahead: introduce a girl to engineering, introduce a girl to physics, introduce a girl to biology, introduce a girl to robotics, zoology, climate science, Python and astronomy. We need them, and it’s up to all of us.

One thought on “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”

  1. This sounds like a phenomenal event! However, I agree with your point that in order for more females to pursue careers in science, it takes a sustained effort. It requires regular exposure to role models and mentors in order to really see these girls become the engineers and scientists that our society needs.

    It is easy for young women to become discouraged with the daily challenges of being in the science field. From the process of attaining the eduction to the work force, a women’s abilities are constantly being second-guessed (even if it’s only in subtle ways). This is not to say that women haven’t made a lot of progress in the last generation, because they have! I thank my mother and her peers constantly for being the brave pioneers who had the confidence to achieve in spite of adversity. However, there is still a long way to go to see more women in leadership positions, earning equal pay, and not being overlooked for career advancement when a woman choses to have a family.

    Introducing a girl to engineering may take only a day, but please continue to encourage her over the course of her education and career by being a mentor or exposing her to role models. There is power in numbers! And the more women who are encouraged to take on these challenges, the better off everyone will be.

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