More than 8,000 elementary and middle school students gathered on campus Saturday to participate in Girl Day, an event that promotes women’s engagement in the STEM field.
Hosted by UT’s Women in Engineering Program, Girl Day exposed students to a variety of topics including chemistry, physics and engineering. Volunteers from more than 160 organizations helped set up hundreds of tables filled with hands-on science activities that spanned the lawns of Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall and the Engineering Education and Research Center.
“Girl Day is great because it shows girls that science is not just for boys,” architectural engineering junior Sanjiv H-k said. “This is an opportunity to level the playing field. Hopefully, kids can walk away from Girl Day with the confidence to pursue what they are actually interested in.”
Students were able to participate in different activities such as learning how to make “elephant toothpaste” through chemical reactions and exploring physics by watching a catapult launch water balloons.
“I love Girl Day because there’s learning at each station,” eighth grader Katrina Machetta said. “It makes learning about science fun and exciting. As a girl, it’s nice to feel like you finally have a voice in the science field. It’s awesome that there’s a whole day dedicated to us belonging in science.”
In addition to the hands-on activities, there were multiple shows encouraging women’s involvement in science, including “Curie Me Away!” and “Fun With Chemistry.”
Associate chemistry professor Kate Biberdorf hosted “Fun With Chemistry,” a show filled with chemical reactions using dry ice, fire and balloon animals to show attendees science can be exciting. Both parents and students were invited to participate onstage.
“What’s important about days like today is that we can interact with these girls and, hopefully, make a big impact on their lives by helping foster their interest in science,” Biberdorf said. “This way, by the time they hit an age where it’s suddenly not cool to like science, they’ll have the confidence to be comfortable being who they are and love what they do.”
Girl Day is one of many initiatives hosted by the Women in Engineering Program geared toward STEM education for pre-college students. The program’s next event, YOUatUT, is scheduled for March 22.