Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day causes smiles, messes

First-time Juneau event encourages girls to think about engineering

Balloon shreds and balls of masking tape littered the floor at Centennial Hall Saturday morning, and things were just getting started.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, a collaboration between ExxonMobil and Girl Scouts of Alaska, gave girls some hands-on engineering experience, and the results were often messy.

“This is really fun,” said Cagney Davis, 11, while helping the Navy Team with the group challenge of building a tower using just balloons and tape.

Different groups of girls employed different strategies. Some made Eiffel Tower-like structures, others made pyramids and some ended up with lumpy piles of balloons clumped together with tape.

In a few cases, the balloon structures ended up slightly taller than their creators.

After 5 minutes for planning and 25 minutes to make towers, finished projects were measured, and Erin Sage, risk and safety adviser for ExxonMobil Alaska, talked to the teams.

“How many people designed the exact balloon tower they made?” Sage asked.

No hands went up.

“That’s just like engineering,” Sage said. “We’re always tweaking, We’re engineers, we’re problem solvers.”

Girls were also introduced to scientific principles via hands-on experiments at six different stations. They were led by mentors, who included engineers and Scouting leaders.

“It’s fun to learn cool things and see what my dad is learning at his work,” said Clara Neeland, 10, shortly after using air pressure to spray water at a plastic tarp.

That station taught girls about pressure equilibrium, and also offered girls the chance to displace water from a bottle by blowing into it with a straw and siphon water from one jug to another.

Other stations gave the 40 girls in attendance hands-on time with personal protective equipment or allowed them to make take-home goodies like a lava lamp made using knowledge of hydrophobic and hydrophilic liquids.

This is the first year Introduce a Girl to Engineering has come to Juneau. For the past several years, the event has taken place in Anchorage.

Alaska Commissioner of Education Michael Johnson delivered a keynote address to girls and spoke to them about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Johnson said the two most important things to STEM are “you and other people.”

“You make STEM important, STEM doesn’t make you important,” Johnson said.

He also emphasized the significance of the free STEM event’s Juneau debut.

“This is incredible,” Johnson said. “It’s you that’s doing the introducing. You’re blazing the trails for all the girls who come after. As a dad of a daughter, I thank you.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @capweekly.


Cagney Davis, 11, smiles while her team puts together a balloon tower using nothing except for balloons and masking tape. The group challenge kicked off Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Centennial Hall. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Cagney Davis, 11, smiles while her team puts together a balloon tower using nothing except for balloons and masking tape. The group challenge kicked off Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Centennial Hall. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Emma McDowell, 10, peers at a lava lamp she made at one of the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day stations. The lava lamps were made of water, oil, food coloring and Alka-Seltzer tablets. Girls learned about hydrophobic and hydrophilic liquids. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Emma McDowell, 10, peers at a lava lamp she made at one of the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day stations. The lava lamps were made of water, oil, food coloring and Alka-Seltzer tablets. Girls learned about hydrophobic and hydrophilic liquids. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Lydia Heidemann, 11, peers through a mostly transparent blue balloon during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. The event is a collaboration between ExxonMobil and Girl Scouts of Alaska, and offers girls a chance to get some hands-on engineering experience. This is the first year the event has taken place in Juneau. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Lydia Heidemann, 11, peers through a mostly transparent blue balloon during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. The event is a collaboration between ExxonMobil and Girl Scouts of Alaska, and offers girls a chance to get some hands-on engineering experience. This is the first year the event has taken place in Juneau. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

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