Parent-daughter event encourages girls to become engineers
Meghan Walter, right, prepares to drop her egg in its protective case as Kira Shelton, left, makes sure its
dropped at a distance of five feet Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, at Weber State University in Ogden.
By Becky Wright - Standard Examiner Reporter
Zoe Wilson dropped an egg on the cement, and it didn't break. It would have, but the 12-year-old from Ogden had built her egg a protective covering using straws as shock absorbers.
“It was extremely fun,” Wilson said.
She worked on the egg project with her father, James Wilson, at Weber State University's annual Parent-Daughter Engineering Day.
“I understand the value of math and science, and all of the STEM curriculum,” said Wilson, a geologist. “I wanted to open her eyes to the possibilities.”
WSU held two Parent-Daughter Engineering Days. About 20 girls participated in activities with their parents on Friday, Nov. 13, at the university's Davis campus in Layton. Another 40 girls and their parents were signed up for engineering fun on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Ogden campus.
“It's just for girls, to encourage girls to think about engineering and technology in their education and in their future career plans,” said Dana Dellinger, director of theCenter For Technology Outreach, in WSU's College of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology.
The activity leader is Celeste Baine of Springfield, Ore., director of the Engineering Education Service Center, who travels the country teaching about engineering.
A cracked egg's yolk spreads on the ground during Weber State University's Parent/Daughter
Engineering Day on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 in Ogden.
Baine said her presentations have two main goals.
“The first goal is for the girls to be introduced to engineering, to see that it doesn't have to be something scary — to see that they can do it and understand that it's about a way of thinking,” she said. “The second goal is for parents to see that their daughters are good at this, and therefore be able to provide a supportive atmosphere at home, because a middle school girl can't get interested in engineering if she doesn't have any support at home.”
Dale Espinoza helps his daughter Juniper, center, and her best friend Ashlynn Flackman, right, try to engineer a way to protect a human head using an egg as the test subject Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, during the Parent/Daughter Engineering Day at Weber State University in Ogden.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the majority of college students are female. In spite of that, Baine said women received just 19 percent of the engineering degrees last year. Parent-Daughter Engineering Day activities are geared for middle school students, because that's when girls tend to start moving away from engineering-related classes.
“Right about when they get hormones, we start losing them — when they start caring more about the boy across the classroom,” Baine said, adding that it's a critical time because it's also when students start making decisions about the classes they want to take it high school, which in turn impacts college opportunities.
To help younger girls envision themselves as engineering majors, several WSU students assisted Baine. Ro Rague, of Eden, who is working toward an engineering degree in computer science, said women are outnumbered by men in her classes.
“At the moment, with a class of like 15 students you will probably have one, or with a class of 30 you might get two,” she said. “In my freshman year, I was the only girl in a 40-person class.”
The two activities Baine led were designed to give girls more confidence. For the first, she assigned the girls and their parents to make a capsule or helmet to protect an egg. The second assignment was to fashion something that looked like a dog, and use simple hydraulics to make it do a trick.
“They're called design challenges, and what that means is that we don't tell them how to do it. We just give them the materials and tell them to create it in their mind's eye,” Baine said. “There's really no wrong answers. All designs are different, and there are many different ways to solve a problem.”
Autumn Eaton, a 14-year-old from Kaysville, said her favorite activity was making the hydraulic puppy. Its trick was moving its head back and forth.
Evan Lunt and daughter Julie work together to engineer a way to protect a human using a egg Saturday,
Nov. 14, 2015, during Parent/Daughter Engineering Day at Weber State University in Ogden.
Cecilee Price-Huish, of Bountiful, signed her daughter up because she thought engineering would be a good match for the girl's creativity.
“I thought it would be great to introduce her to a field of study, or potential professional field, where she could utilize her amazing imagination in ways that could affect positive change in the world,” Price-Huish said.
While 19 percent of engineering degrees were earned by females last year, Baine said women only make up 10 percent of the engineering workforce. It's partially because they use those degrees to become educators, doctors and company CEOs, she said, but that's not the only reason for the low number.
“They do say that there's a lot of companies that don't have a friendly environment for women, and it's a challenge,” she said.
Anna Jenkins, a 10-year-old from Farmington, is undaunted.
“I love engineering, and I want to beome an engineer when I grow up,” she said. “There aren't very many, and I want to be one of the first ones.”
Images: Brian Wolfer/Special to the Standard-Examiner
Parent/Daughter Engineering Day 2015 was a big success!
EAST's Parent/Daughter Engineering Day 2015 was a hit! 120 girls and parents had a great time figuring out how to build a hydraulic puppy and make it not only cute, but also do tricks. Getting a taste of biomedical engineering, teams devised ways to protect an egg buddy's head from concussions and worse (ewww) and learned a lot about why a girl might just want to become an engineer one day.