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Three photos of young girls participating in DiscoverE Girl Day activities.

Laughter and excitement could be heard around the room as 60 elementary students filed into the College Station Hilton Feb. 23 for the second annual DiscoverE Girl Day event. The Texas A&M University College of Engineering’s Women in Engineering program, in collaboration with PK-12 Engineering Education Outreach, hosted the event to introduce second through fifth grade girls to the wonders of engineering.

Women in Engineering director Shawna Fletcher said early exposure is key.

“These students know about other career fields, but not engineering,” she said. “They need to know about all the different engineering options, especially those that they don’t usually self-select. Girls are good at engineering; they just need to be given an opportunity to explore.”

Shelly Tornquist, director of PK-12 Engineering Education Outreach, said the event is a great opportunity to spark an interest that can lead young people on a pathway toward engineering.

“Engineers use math and science to solve problems creatively,” Tornquist said. “That being said, we see that engineering activities can be the first time math and science makes sense to our young people.”

Women in Engineering staff and ambassadors volunteered to teach activities to the girls — from building pneumatic machines to building speakers and learning about the transfer of energy with Newton’s cradle. Participants also learned about the engineering design process when they were asked to think of a problem that they wanted to solve. They had to come up with possible solutions, sketch a design and use glow sticks to build a prototype.

While the girls worked with hands-on activities, parents attended a parent session where Fletcher and Tornquist discussed effective ways to engage young girls in engineering activities.

“They were very interested in how to support their daughters in engineering and beyond,” Fletcher said. “We discussed many of the gaps and challenges to supporting women in non-traditional fields and what they can do about it.”

Women in Engineering program staff developed the activities and organized this event.