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ATHENS, Ohio (October 22, 2012) – The student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology gave young girls a taste of how fun math, science, engineering and technology can be at a special event held this weekend for local Girl Scouts.
The SWE members invited local troops to the Academic & Research Center to learn about various various mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering principles via five science experiments.
Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Diana Schwerha, the group's adviser, said SWE members hoped the experiments would spark interest in the 20 attendees.
"SWE members believe strongly in mentoring younger girls who may find themselves as future Ohio engineers," she said.
Chapter president Sarah Miller, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major, noted that while she and her fellow students worked hard to make the experiments fun, one of the day's goals was to build relationships.
"We're just doing activities with them, talking to them, spending time with them," she said.
One of the experiments involved mixing sodium alginate, a gum extracted from brown algae, and calcium chloride – with a dash of food coloring for fun. The end result?
"I liked when we made the slime," said Maddi Nutter, age 10. "It was squishy, and it was weird."
Other activities included making lava lamps to demonstrate that oil is more dense than water, rubbing a balloon on one's head and using the created static electricity to attract a soda can, and building ten-inch structures out of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows in a weight-bearing competition. A package of M&Ms provided the test weight.
"It's a really good thing that we don't build with spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, or else our buildings would fall apart," said Halli Lindamood, age 10.
Danielle LeShaw, a troop leader and the mother of a second-grader who attended, said the day was eye opening for the junior engineers. "The event really allowed younger girls understand what kind of choices they have as they get older and consider college and careers," she said.
Valerie Young, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, agreed that the day was full of powerful examples.
"My daughter is a Girl Scout, and she loves to come and do the projects with the college students. They really take ownership of the event, and organize and run it beautifully," she said. "The Girl Scouts have a wonderful time, get a chance to build and create things, and at the same time, experience this example of young women in leadership roles without even realizing it," she said.