For my daughter, the best part of a Saturday spent crafting a paper bridge, creating a water-powered crane, and making her own electric quiz game was, “everything.” Ten years old, she joined about 60 other girls for the fourth annual Wow! That’s Engineering! program coordinated by the local Society of Women Engineers earlier this year.
The outreach program encourages girls in engineering by engaging them in hands-on activities. This year, the girls constructed devices representing various engineering fields. The girls were separated into small groups, those who knew each other well were put into different groups to encourage bridges of friendship in addition to the paper bridge design contest in which they took part.
“I really enjoyed the electricity game we made,” Sweetie shared. “We made these circuits and if you get the right answer, a light will come on.”
My daughter wants to be an engineer one day and with many adult friends who are engineers themselves, she has a lot of mentors. A day spent with peers exploring her area of interest, however, was a special opportunity. She most enjoyed creating the paper bridge. She went into the activity with confidence because she had previously built a very strong toothpick bridge for a homeschool science fair years ago. At the Wow! That’s Engineering! workshop, however, the set up was different. Each girl was given a few pieces of paper and a handful of paper clips to build a bridge that could hold 100 pennies. Having experienced a similar scenario, Sweetie was convinced her design would win.
When it came down to the test, the girls were presented with a problem. Thy had been told they would be spanning a gap of about 8 inches, but when they measured the test site found that the estimate was 2 inches too small. “We threw in that twist to make it more real,” the volunteer said. “We’ll go out to a site, and it’s different than what we were told.”
Sweetie’s friend also attended the Wow! That’s Engineering! workshop. She was proudly holding her Hydrolift, a wooden crane the size of a tea kettle that used two syringes as pumps to raise and lower rocks, when my husband came to pick up the girls.
“I want to come back ’cause it’s fun,” the girls said. “I love it.”
The Society of Women Engineers offers outreach programs for girls interested in engineering all over the country. Visit their website and find a workshop nearest you.