Event helps emphasize importance of women in STEM

Teams of parents and their daughters spent Nov. 18–19 learning to problem solve and work together to find creative engineering solutions.

The 6th annual Parent-Daughter Engineering Day was held at both the Davis campus and the WSU main campus.

According to Dana Dellinger, the Director for the Center for Technology Outreach at WSU, there were roughly 135 in attendance combined from the event at the Davis campus and the event at the main campus.

Dellinger said that she enjoys watching the parents and children spend time together in a different setting and problem solve together.

“Next year we hope to build this program ourself with our own women engineers and faculty,” Dellinger said. “We definitely have the talent here with our own staff to do that.”

Elaine Cope, who is a student and the president of The Society of Women Engineers at WSU, helped to organize the event alongside Dellinger.

Cope worked to coordinate volunteers and volunteered at the event for the third year in a row.

Cope and the other volunteers offered both advice and words of encouragement to the parent-daughter teams.

“These little girls are in seventh grade and saying, ‘I want to be a civil engineer,’” Cope said. “And we are at the point where we can start encouraging them.”

According to Cope, she is often the only girl in her classes, and she wanted to let the girls know that they don’t have to choose between being women and being involved in STEM.

“You don’t have to be a tomboy to do this,” Cope said. “I embrace being a woman, and at the same time, I embrace my major.”

Naomi Anson and her daughter Abigail Anson attended the event for the second year in a row.

Naomi Anson recalled being told as a child that girls aren’t good at engineering or aren’t good at math.

“So I didn’t realize until I went to college that I’m actually really good at math,” Anson said. “So it’s important for me to encourage her (Abigail) because math has always been her favorite subject.”

The girls and their parents were given two different engineering challenges during the event.

Each of the engineering challenges came with a different set of materials to build with and a list of constraints that participants had to adhere to while building.

The first involved using a combination of mechanical and civil engineering to build a “flinger” to launch a marshmallow into a plastic bin from a distance of about five feet.

The second challenge involved using hydraulics to construct a drawbridge. After about 30 minutes of building, the girls and their parents gathered around a long table to raise their newly-built drawbridges together.

Celeste Baine, facilitator of the event, offered advice to those with bridges that didn’t work on the first try.

“If you’re unhappy with your bridge, I encourage you to take it home and keep working on it,” Baine said.

Wendy Poperszky and her two daughters, Amber Poperszky, 13, and Juliana Poperszky, 15, attended the event at the WSU main campus.

Wendy Poperskzy said she enjoys seeing the excitement and enthusiasm from her daughters during the event.

David Ferro, Dean of the College of Engineering, Applied Science & Technology, said that he loves events like these and hopes that the people who attend enjoy themselves.

“We’re not just creating engineers,” Ferro said. “Hopefully, we are creating good citizens.”

Ferro said he also hopes that these girls will recognize and feel that they can actually do something that they didn’t think they could before.

Ferro said that EAST has recently been able to hire more female faculty members, and he hopes that if these students decide to attend here that they’ll come to WSU and be able to see people just like them who have gone all the way up through a Ph.D.

“Even if folks never go into engineering, the idea that you can look at a problem, create a creative solution and work together with other people — that’s all to the good,” Ferro said. “No matter what field they go into, they’re going to be better off.”