On Feb. 27, girls took over UT campus to program robots, identify organs and manufacture lip gloss.
UT’s Women in Engineering Program hosted its annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (Girl Day), an event that draws over 5,000 elementary and middle school female students from all over Texas to introduce girls to engineering.
Various student organizations, including Student Engineering Council and the Society of Women Engineers, planned activities such as catapulting water balloons to engage girls in STEM.
A’Shantia Parker, a seventh-grade student at Harmony Science Academy - Grand Prairie (HSAGP), said the best part of the event was the hands-on experience of learning science.
“I like science, but it was hard for me, so now I’m trying to get more advanced in it, and this event has been really cool in doing that,” Parker said. “I like being able to start over and build things myself.”
According to Julie Minard, science teacher at HSAGP, breaking the traditional male-dominated mentality in STEM is one of the reasons for their long trek from Grand Prairie to UT.
“There’s that stigma of guys only, like the boys’ club, and we want to break that,” Minard said. “It’s not the boy’s club.”
For IT manager Erik Moore, parent of a seven-year-old Girl Day participant, changing gender stereotypes begins at a young age.
“I just want to make sure my daughter knows she’s capable and that science is an option in her life as she gets older,” Moore said. “I know from my exposure from both sexes in my profession that women are just as capable, sometimes even more capable, than men. And they bring a different perspective to the game.”
Girl Day at UT has grown significantly since it started in 2001, according to Maryam Gharbi, UT architecture engineering alumna, who has brought her nine-year-old daughter for the past three years.
“What is beautiful is that each year I see more and more people from other cities traveling to come here,” Gharbi said. “With this event, you’re embedding it from that early age so they can grow with that mentality of what they can be.”
Volunteers, many of whom were current UT students, also felt the impact of Girl Day.
According to Luisa Florez, geosystems engineering and hydrogeology senior, showing young girls the creative process of engineering is critical to lowering the gender disproportion in STEM.
“In my classes, I would say 85 percent are male,” Florez said. “That’s important to acknowledge every day so the disproportion becomes less, until it’s equal.”
Chemical engineering sophomore Roli Garg said she has heard stories of women in engineering getting discriminated against in interviews.
“The fact that it still happens makes me very mad, so events like this will hopefully change that,” Garg said.
According to Emma Miller, an eleven-year-old member of all-girls robotics team Lady Cans, teaching engineering to other young girls is rewarding because girls can do anything boys can. She said she hopes to come to UT one day to study mechanical engineering.
“A couple of years ago, I told my cousin I was going to be in the Lady Cans someday, and he was like ‘Oh no, you can’t do that, girls suck at robotics,’” Miller said. “So I said, ‘Watch me as we go to championships.’”