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Explosions, Robotic Fish and Bacteria

Young women to experience hands-on engineering at Feb. 26 career workshop

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February 24, 2011 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 300 Chicago-area middle school and high school girls will perform hands-on experiments and tour Evanston campus laboratories Saturday, Feb. 26, during Northwestern University’s 40th annual Career Day for Girls.

The career workshop, designed to encourage young women to consider engineering in their education and career choices, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road.

Betty Shanahan, executive director of the Society of Women Engineers, will kick off the program with a keynote address from 9:10 to 9:45 a.m. in the Technological Institute’s Ryan Family Auditorium.

An engineering design competition, laboratory tours, hands-on experiments, a goal-setting workshop focusing on different engineering majors, and separate panel discussions for students and parents will follow. Throughout the day, young women will have an opportunity to meet current women engineering students, faculty and alumnae.

In the design competition, teams of six will use rubber bands, spoons, popsicle sticks, paper cups, toilet paper tubes and tape to build a prototype of a supply delivery device and then “fly” the supplies to an island that recently suffered damage due to an erupting volcano.

Students participating in lab tours will, among other things, isolate DNA using the students’ own cells; learn how to program a robot; fix old and broken medical equipment that will be shipped to Third World countries; see and learn about GhostBot, the robotic fish, and the real fish that inspired it; observe bacteria from everyday life using microscopes; and view demonstrations of chemistry’s explosions and wonders and a spinning bicycle wheel that defies gravity.

In hands-on afternoon sessions, high school students will create an electronic dance pad using various materials while middle school students will rotate through four different activities, one of which is to create silly putty. These activities will expose students to various aspects of materials science and civil and mechanical engineering.

Career Day has been held at Northwestern annually since 1970, when only 4 percent of the students in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science were women. Today, nearly one-third of McCormick students are women.

(Registration for the program is closed as it has reached capacity.)