Students from Andover, North Andover and Lawrence Participate in Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day
LAWRENCE — A group of elementary school girls took on the role of engineers during an event held at GLTS in conjunction with Columbia Gas.
On June 10, GLTS and Columbia gas held “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” which served as an opportunity for girls in grades three through five to experience science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) in a fun, hands-on environment.
Columbia Gas reached out to GLTS as its first partner school in Massachusetts to host the event, given its strong focus on career technical education and academics.
To start off the morning, President Mark Kempic welcomed approximately 80 girls from Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, encouraging them to get excited about STEAM, because if they put their minds to it, they can change the world.
“Engineering continues to be a male-dominated field due largely to the number of males vs. females who study these areas,” Kempic said. “Our hope is that programs such as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day will encourage more females to study STEAM education and pursue opportunities in these fields.”
Students then proceeded to gym, where they broke up into 10 teams and had 35 minutes to build a bridge — using materials like cardboard, plastic straws, tape, pipe cleaners and tinfoil — that could withstand increasing amounts of weight. Each team had to build its bridge over an 8-inch gap between two tables and had $100 of play money to purchase materials.
“It’s nice for girls to be together and find their voice,” said North Andover state Rep. Christina Minicucci. “I think it’s important for them to realize they can do whatever they want to do, and to be exposed to female engineers, biologists and women in science.”
On one side of the gym, the black team — third grade students Marisa Aarons, of North Andover, Devin Francis, of North Andover, and Sydney Kelin, of Andover; fourth grade students Leilani Guzman, of North Andover, Charlee Annarelli, of Andover, and Kiara Montilla, of Lawrence; and fifth grade students Shammielle Garcia and Dhruvisha Shukla, both of Lawrence — quickly got to work.
The girls folded their cardboard horizontally in half, wrapped it in tinfoil and then added straws underneath for support. They taped pipe cleaners to the side and secured all their materials together with a handful of elastic bands.
In a different part of the gym, the blue team — third grade students Elsie Riley, of North Andover, Emma Abbott, of North Andover, Verity Joy Chave, of Andover, and Katelyn Aquilera, of Lawrence; fourth grade students Lindsey Kenny, of Andover, and Hanna Fitzgerald, of Lawrence; and fifth grade students Katie Odden, of Andover, and Ensley Espinal, of Lawrence, took a slightly different approach to their design.
The girls folded their cardboard vertically and taped Popsicle sticks between the folds for added support, and even added Popsicle stick ramps for cars that would travel over the bridge.
When time was up, GLTS HVAC students Selenny Vasquez and Brianna Candelario went around to each group to judge projects. The activity was especially meaningful for the two, as they are both pursuing careers not traditionally occupied by women.
“I want these girls to recognize they don’t have to be stereotyped into a specific group,” Candelario said. “It’s not only guys who can be engineers. They have choices.”
To test which bridge could withstand the most weight, GLTS students attached a bucket to the base and slowly filled it with varying size weights.
The black team was the first to be judged. As Candelario and Vasquez began filling the bucket, the girls’ excitement and awe at what they had created could not be contained.
“Oh my gosh, I am so nervous. What’s going to happen?” Aarons said. “This is the first time I’ve ever built something.”
Their bridge held 22.8 pounds before the tape holding it between the two tables came undone.
The blue team’s bridge earned second place for holding 88.2 pounds. As more and more weight was added, the entire room fell silent, with team members hoping for the best.
“Hold, hold, please hold,” Chave ordered. “Be a good bridge, don’t break!”
It was the brown team, however, that came out victorious, with their bridge withstanding 85 pounds of weight.
Third grade students Jana El Danab, of North Andover, Daria Bernat, of North Andover, and Athena Ma, of Andover; fourth grade students Melina Chacha, of North Andover, Rebecca John, of Andover, and Katelyn Belanger, of Lawrence; and fifth grade students Shanya Tavarez, of Lawrence, and LizMarie Feliz-Torres, of Lawrence, received certificates of completion from Columbia Gas, not to mention bragging rights.