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UND event encourages young girls’ interest in math, science fields

GRAND FORKS -- A loud pop followed University of North Dakota student Shelby Johnson dropping a match into a glass container of ice. Six little girls watched captivated as the ice began burning, something just a minute before they assured Johnson...

GRAND FORKS - A loud pop followed University of North Dakota student Shelby Johnson dropping a match into a glass container of ice.
Six little girls watched captivated as the ice began burning, something just a minute before they assured Johnson it wouldn’t do.
Johnson achieved the feat by dropping calcium carbide onto the ice, which began melting and producing acetylene gas - a flammable substance.
“This demo proves that in science not everything is always as it seems, and sometimes you have to do some investigating and some experimenting to see the full potential of materials,” she told the group of girls, who were accompanied by their mothers. “And that’s kind of what engineers do.”
The mother-daughter groups were on campus for the first Mommy, Me and SWE event - SWE stands for Society of Women Engineers - at UND. The event served to get girls in grades K-5 excited about math and science - and in turn, engineering.
SWE members told the groups about their various fields of study, which included geological, mechanical, civil, and aeronautical engineering.
Statistics show one in five engineers are women, and organizers encouraged the girls to become engineers and increase that number.
“When you go to engineering school as a woman, you’re one of few in your class,” said Johnson, gesturing to a classroom. “There were three girls, but every chair in this room was full. ... That doesn’t seem right, does it? No. Girls are just as good at all of these things as boys and at being engineers.”
Mojdeh Mardani, the group’s faculty adviser, is an electrical engineer but told event participants that the creation of products can require cooperation from a several types of engineers.
“This cute case I have for my phone is made by chemical, mechanical and all kinds of other engineers,” she said. “What happens is we all work together as a team of hundreds and thousands of people.”
As part of the event, the girls created lava lamps. Organizers gave each girl a small plastic bottle filled with water and vegetable oil. Adding two more ingredients - Alka-Seltzer tablets and food coloring - produced bubbles that lifted blobs of color up and down within the bottle.
Cellphone flashlights placed under the bottles enhanced the effect.
Five-year-old Irelynn Trostad’s lava lamp glowed green, while her older sister Emmi, 8, watched hers produce a yellow light.
The pair ventured over the river from East Grand Forks for the event with their mother, Michelle Trostad.
“We just wanted to introduce the girls to what they can do with science,” she said.
In addition to a hands-on experiment, participants also were shown examples of items created by engineers, include the Barbie doll, various robots and prosthetic limbs made for a dog born with disabled legs.
Another Mommy, Me and SWE event will he held 10 a.m. to noon Sunday at the University of Mayville in room 118 of the Education Building. Mothers and daughters can register by emailing Sarah Sletten at sarah.sletten@mayvillestate.edu .

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
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