The day was full of test tubes, marshmallows, Twizzlers, spaghetti, flowers, night googles, fuel consumption, oxygen masks, vein finders, occupational exposure levels, oil spills and ship stability. Where was this?
This was a half a day with 300 students at Ashley Hall School, an all-girls school located in downtown Charleston. Eleven federal agencies engaged the students in hands-on activities for “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” as part of National Engineers Week.
Although to a lesser degree in the past, women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, physical science and mathematical sciences. That is not good news when society depends upon engineers and STEM professionals to design every aspect of our lives – where we live, what we drive, how we communicate and even what we eat. Events like these allow us to focus on inspiring girls to become critical thinkers for our society’s future success.
Before the event, each girl signed up for three 45 minute sessions that interested them from the descriptions of activities the agencies would be hosting. Lt. Col. Rachel Honderd, being the first female commander of the District, was the perfect person to talk to the girls about the endless possibilities that now exist for women in the work place.
“We are here to inspire you in STEM and show you some of the amazing opportunities that are out there,” said Honderd. “We hope to relate some practical applications of STEM and how they fit into the bigger world.”
The round-robin sessions began and so did the excitement.
“It’s nice to learn about things you don’t typically think about,” said Alexandria Vicente, class of 2025. “I am inspired by these women and their careers.”
Answering questions about their education, daily lives and favorite and non-favorite parts of their jobs, the presenters loved encouraging the girls’ interest in STEM professions.
Designing free standing towers, solving an oil spill disaster, calculating helicopter weight loads, building a nuclear fission model, conducting a bioassay with a marine species and learning how to identify plants by observing their flowers and leaves were just some of the activities the students participated in.
“Using marshmallows, tape and spaghetti, the record for the morning was a 34 inch high tower, said Max Carroll, project manager. “ I was amazed at how quickly the girls figured out how to build a tower using basic engineering principles.”
Ashley Hall’s slogan is PQV….. Possunt Quae Volunt (PQV). The translation is “girls who have the will, have the ability.” There is no doubt that these students will pursue the STEM fields in the PQV way!