Cockrell's 'Girl Day' promotes female engineers

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Addison, 12, catches a ball thrown by a machine built by the Girl Scouts of Central Texas Lady Cans Robotics Team. “Girl Scouts CAN Drive Robots: Can You?” was one of the many exhibitions showcased out Saturday.
Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza | Daily Texan Staff

Hundreds of elementary and middle school girls from around Austin celebrated UT’s 16th annual Girl Day on Saturday at the Cockrell School of Engineering, where they participated in hands-on engineering activities ranging from building makeshift prosthetics to coding.

Tricia Berry, director of the Women in Engineering Program, said the activities help girls feel accomplished and more interested in careers they may not have considered before.

“Our aim is to get more girls into engineering and the only way is to get more girls interested,” Berry said. “We’re trying to spark that interest early. I think it’s important to give girls an opportunity to see role models of other girls who are engineers, so they can start to connect with people in those fields.”

The event, organized by WEP and over 150 sponsors, is meant to encourage young girls to consider a future in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Biomedical engineering sophomore Arohi Ranade, who volunteered at the event, helped the attendees build prosthetics using rubber bands and other common objects. Ranade said the activity can help girls gain confidence in their problem-solving skills, as well as interest in a science career.

“They are being encouraged to learn engineering principles, and when they apply to college, they might not feel afraid of doing engineering,” Ranade said. “That initial fear and hesitation goes away once they see girls doing engineering.”

Juliet Booker, 10, attended Girl Day to learn more about designing houses and said she wants to eventually become a designer.  

“I want to be a home designer, I love home designing,” Booker said. “I love putting stuff in and seeing how it looks.”

Leah Carter, a volunteer representing oil company Halliburton, said it is important to encourage girls to pursue STEM jobs to keep the field diverse.

“Historically, it has been a male-dominated field,” Carter said. “We need young girls to know that they can do it too.”

Carter, who organized an activity where kids designed a machine to rescue a child from a well, said inspiring kids was the best part of Girl Day.

“My favorite part of the day is the excitement on the kid’s faces when they’ve built something that works,” Carter said. “They’re very proud of themselves, and that encouragement…is what I want every kid to walk away with.”