February 16-22, 2014 was National Engineers Week and engineer girls were out in full force. This year’s theme of “discovery” was reflected in activities around the world. Engineers, professors, and college students introduced girls to the world of engineering in fun and creative ways. In the process, they aimed to ignite enthusiasm and interest from the next generation of women engineers.
I personally attended the festivities at the University of Texas School of Engineering. Over two thousand girls from first to eighth grade took over the campus to participate in, “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” on February 20th. This sea of young, enthusiastic minds flooded the buildings and classrooms, absorbing all that they could. The students selected courses from a variety of options according to their grade level. In the class entitled “Cupcake Coring,” petroleum engineers and students used multi-layered cupcakes representing the different layers of the earth, and students simulated the coring process used to discover pocket of oil and gas in the ground. Across campus, mechanical engineers demonstrated the counter-intuitive and entertaining nature of a Rube Goldberg machine that required over twenty steps to zip a zipper. Computer and electrical engineers helped girls transform the bristles of a toothbrush, a motor, and a battery into robotic creatures. Using concepts from physics and fiber optics, electrical engineers demonstrated how a laser beam could follow a stream of water even as the water changed directions. Many of the girls who participated summed up their day as: “amazing,” “a learning experience,” and “truly inspiring.” Through creative, engaging activities, girls were introduced to the many fields of engineering, and participants received a taste of the possibilities and opportunities available.
During a week that celebrates the profession of engineering, girls as young as the first grade discovered that they can be engineers. With guidance from engineers, professors, and college students, girls acquired first hand experience in the engineering disciplines. They discovered that engineers use science and innovative ideas to solve problems. Most of all, girls discovered that by becoming an engineer, they can and will make our world a better place. If you didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the activities this year, make sure to join the fun in 2015 when Engineers Week will run from February 22-28, and Girl Day is on February 26. If you can’t find a program at a local university or school, you may even be inspired to start something of your own!