Villanova Professors Introduce Girls to Engineering
Led by Professor and Associate Department Chair Amy Fleischer, PhD, the Mechanical Engineering Girl Scouts Day program began in 2010 and this year involved seven faculty members and more than 25 Mechanical Engineering students who volunteered their time. Assistant Professor Verica Gajic, PhD, along with Associate Professors Aaron Wemhoff, PhD, and Qianhong Wu, PhD, led a series of activities for 45 fourth and fifth grade girls, while Assistant Professor James O'Brien, PhD, with Associate Professors Gang Feng, PhD, and Ani Ural, PhD, taught the 45 sixth through eighth graders.
Among the activities for the younger girls were a solar energy car and rubber band powered plane. Julie Bogle, age 11, most enjoyed discovering how energy was stored in the rubber band, while 11-year-old Zagara Sims was more interested in seeing the sun’s effects on the matchbox-style car, which she tested in the parking lot outside CEER.
Inside Tolentine, groups of middle-school girls rotated between projects, which included creating prosthetic legs frommail tubes, cardboard boxes, sponges, bubble wrap, duct tape, rubber bands and rope. Learning to build a gravity-fed water network was a favorite activity of 12-year-old Katie Ackerman and 11-year-old Sabriel Watkins, who says, “It’s interesting how we were able to get water from one place to another.” Meanwhile, Lindsey Davis, 13, was most excited by her experience in the nanotechnology lab, “The machine was awesome; we saw a beetle, piece of hair, and a computer chip change in size!”
Dr. Fleischer appreciates the invaluable financial support received from alumna and Engineering Advisory Board member Anne Roby ’86 ChE, a senior vice president at Praxair, which provided a matching gift for the program. She says, “Anne understands the importance of introducing girls to this field and preparing the next generation of women in STEM.”