Future Engineers Learn From ODU Engineering Students
College students typically sleep in on Saturday mornings, but more than 15 students from Old Dominion University and Hampton University volunteered to spend it teaching 9 and 10-year-olds the importance of engineering. On Nov. 21, 50 Junior Girl Scouts in the Hampton Roads area participated in Girl Scout Engineering Patch Day at Old Dominion University.
As a collaborative effort, Hampton Roads Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, and members of the ODU Society of Women Engineers brought professionals and college graduates from the local area to set up classrooms where girls could learn different types of engineering.
Emily Balke is a graduate of Virginia Tech and a mechanical engineer with over 30 years of experience.
“Too many times girls are afraid to tackle math and science subjects,” Balke said. “I want them to have positive thoughts about their future.”
Balke explained that girls need more encouragement to enter technical fields.
This is the fourth year that ODU SWE has participated in the event, and the second year that it has been held at ODU. ODU SWE is an organization that has over 40 active members with 35 to 40 percent of them male.
In groups, the participants rotated through five workshops. Each focused on a specific type of engineering: mechanical, electrical, software, and civil. Girls had the opportunity to program robots, make their own electrical circuits from Christmas lights and batteries and build structures using only spaghetti noodles, tape, string and one campfire marshmallow.
Girl Scout Troop 4151 from Newport News experienced Girl Scout Patch Day for the first time this weekend. Fifth-graders Traeva Boone and Megan Spady, and fourth-graders Damaya Stewart and Makenzie Tutone enjoyed the hands-on experience from the classroom activities.
“My favorite part was controlling the robots through the maze,” Tutone said. “It was really cool.”
“I think a lot of young girls don’t know a lot about engineering. Events like this are a great way to expose them to the possibilities of their future,” Maryam Amer, president of ODU SWE, said.
Amer, a senior majoring in mechanical and aerodynamic engineering, conveyed that events like Girl Scout Patch Day are also good opportunities for college students to gain connections with professionals working in their field.
Jeannie Mann, event coordinator and a software engineer, added that Girl Scout Patch Day also provides role-models for young girls who are close in age.
“College students are an example for these girls that they can achieve their goals,” Mann said.
Each girl received a special “engineer” badge for their accomplishments. However, at the end of the day, these girls earned more than a badge; they earned an experience that can change their future.