Robotic hands, coin-flippers and light-up yo-yos are three items not usually found within the same sentence. But for 40 girls, 40 parents and a team of engineers, they are all part of a Saturday spent at Weber State University.
These parent-daughter teams worked to build a prosthetic hand, construct a coin-flipper and design a yo-yo as an exercise to engage them in scientific activities.
Rainie Ingram, an outreach coordinator and recruiter for the WSU College of Applied Science and Technology, helped organize the event in conjunction with the WSU Collegiate Society of Women Engineers as a celebration of National Engineer Week.
“Women are underrepresented in many science and engineering occupations,” Ingram said. “Our focus is to get girls excited about engineering and technology through hands-on activities that get them thinking like engineers while having fun.”
Maria Rague, WSU Collegiate Society of Women Engineers member, is not even an engineering major. She is a sophomore in the technical sales program at WSU.
“I joined the society to enhance my knowledge of science and engineering,” Rague said. “I participate in these activities to give the girls a sense of support and accomplishment. I want them to broaden their interests in engineering like I have.”
This initiative is part of a national program to encourage junior high girls to go into engineering and take the more difficult science and math courses. It also allows parents to show support for their daughters by showing up and engaging in the activities in a team setting.
This is the first year Hill Air Force Base has teamed up with the WSU College of Applied Science and Technology for Parent-Daughter Engineering Day.
“We want these kids to realize that STEM is not about textbooks,” said Debbie Roach, the STEM outreach coordinator for Hill Air Force Base. “The hands-on approach and problem-solving activities provide an idea of what the real-world engineering is like.”
The main presenter at the event was biomedical engineer Celeste Baine. Baine, an advocate of engineering education among women, spoke to the girls about the vast opportunities available within the engineering realm.
“You can do anything you want, in any field you want, with a degree in engineering,” she said. “There are medical school, graduate school and workplace opportunities available in nearly every industry in America. Three United States presidents have been engineers. The opportunities are endless.”
Baine conducted the events and offered guidance through the different activities to promote teamwork and communication.
Hannah Moser, a sixth-grader at Ogden Preparatory Academy, worked with her father to create a robotic hand. She said her method was to make a ring that would push the claw against the paper and create a grabbing motion.
“I could not have done this without my father, but we worked so good together as a team,” Hannah said.
Hannah was the first participant to complete the robotic hand and use the hydraulic system to grab a piece of paper.
After the first two activities, parents heard a presentation about helping their daughters participate in scientific activities and maintain interest into the high school years. The daughters were able to play engineering bingo with engineering students and learn about the fun parts of science.
The theme of the snowy afternoon was, above all, laughter. Most girls came into the room at the beginning of the day not knowing many, if any, people at their tables. These same girls left laughing and smiling with newfound friends who shared the same interest in science.