On Saturday, Feb. 25, more than 6,000 girls ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade attended “Girl Day 2017” hosted by the Women in Engineering Program (WEP), part of The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. Counting parents, Girl Scout troop leaders and teachers, more than 10,000 people attended the event, which was a major success by all accounts.
Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Research Scientist Steven Polunsky volunteered at the event and interacted with numerous young women interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
“When we go to these events we are looking to kindle that fire of curiosity in someone,” explains Polunsky. “I want them to see a crash test, touch a piece of road bed, examine highway sign letters under a microscope, and think ‘that’s not so hard. I can do that. I can help people be safe.’ I’m proud that TTI helps make the opportunity possible.”
Partners for the event included Halliburton, Texas Instruments, 3M, Dell Technologies, AMD, and dozens of other corporations and associations. The next Girl Day will occur on Feb. 24, the last Saturday of Engineers Week 2018.
“It’s important to encourage girls at all levels of education to pursue STEM-related careers,” says Tricia Berry, WEP director and collaborative lead for the Texas Girls Collaborative Project. “Girl Day at UT-Austin can provide that needed spark of excitement for participating kindergarten through middle-school aged girls through hands-on STEM problem-solving experiences and interactions with STEM role models. Having agencies like TTI participate can show students that STEM is making a difference in our world in all kinds of ways, and the pathways to STEM-related careers can go through all kinds of different universities, majors, and specialties.”