Middle-school girls learn about engineering at ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’ at Stevens

2/21/2014

Stevens welcomed about 40 middle school girls to campus on Feb. 20 for “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,’’ as part of the activities during National Engineering Week.

Started in 2001 as a joint effort between several groups and National Engineers Week Foundation, "Girl Day 2014’’ allows male and female engineers the opportunity to introduce more than one million girls and young women to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Many universities host a Girl Day event at their school.

“Today’s event shows girls what engineering is and how engineers are changing the world,’’ said Kristie Damell, Assistant Dean of Students at Stevens. “Engineers are changing the world in every way possible – it’s more than math and science; it’s being able to look at something and want to make it better.’’

At Stevens’ Girl Day, the fifth-through-eighth graders, from schools in Hoboken, Verona and Branchburg, N.J., collaborated in small groups as they participated in two hands-on activities to showcase what engineers do. “Today you’ll be working like real engineers,’’ Marissa Brock ’99, Associate Director of Recruitment and Diversity Recruitment Coordinator at Stevens, said to the students.

For “Build a Paper Table,’’ each group had to design and build a table out of newspaper rolled into tubes. It had to be at least eight inches tall and strong enough to hold a yearbook. During the “Helping Hand’’ activity, the girls had to design and build a device that allows the user to grab different objects and drop them into a container that’s at least two feet away.

Seven Stevens student volunteers, part of the Stevens STEM Ambassador program, worked with the groups, helping them with each activity and asking questions about what worked and what didn’t. Several ambassadors mentioned that by working in a group, the girls learned teamwork, how to listen to each other, and how to problem solve.

 “(It was interesting because) the girls were given the same materials, but all came up with different solutions to the problem,’’ said Laura Cerrito ’14, a STEM Ambassador.

Caitlin Klose, an eighth-grader, liked how each group found a different solution to the same problem.  She especially liked the chance to learn by doing. “I love doing projects like this in science class. It’s really fun,’’ she said.

One ambassador felt that middle school is the right age to spark an interest in engineering and science. “This age group is perfect because it shows them what they can do with engineering,’’ said STEM Ambassador Tatyana Fedorenko ’15. “It exposes them to engineering, but it doesn’t push them into it.’’

Tours of Davidson Lab and the Design & Manufacturing Institute were also on the agenda, which seemed to be a highlight. “The tours created a real connection between the words and the actions,’’ said Nick Klose, Caitlin’s dad. “When they could see things in action, it just made it real.’’