Girl Day at UT Austin
My Saturday was a day well spent.Having graduated from the University of Texas at Austin way back in 1988, I was keenly interested in yesterday’s event, not for myself but for my daughter Ava Jane.I had no idea that, every year, the Women In Engineering Program hosts “Girl Day” at UT Austin, wherein girls from around the state, from kindergarten through high school, are welcome to join in a free, fun-filled day at the campus that’s entirely dedicated to exploring engineering, science, and the cool ways that a future engineer can help change the world with a brilliant new idea.
I knew this event would be right up Ava Jane’s alley.If you’re not already familiar with my daughter, she’s pretty amazing.Now I know every dad might say that, and that it’s entirely possible that I may have a biased opinion, but take my word for it this girl is something special.Just a few days prior to this weekend I found her notebook which contains a number of inventions she’s come up with and drawn the schematics for.One is a “fishing gun” that shoots the fish hook and line “right to where the fish are” (copyright 2017, AJL, LLC., all rights reserved, patent pending) and the other is the “Wrench-O-Matic 200” which tightens bolts for you, all you need is a robot arm (robot arm not included).The third one was a true gem, which offers to charge your phone faster.You just take the cover off a socket (get adult help), then turn up the electricity, replace the cover and plug in your phone.It’ll charge in no time.In short, she’s a huge fan of science and discovery so I knew that Girl Day at UT Austin would be a perfect fit.
And it was.Events continued from noon until four, separated by area and age range, and of course, well organized as is endemic to the mind of an engineer.While outside the petroleum engineering department she learned about how they extract crude oil from the ground and the forces that apply.She tried it herself, creating her own deep-well extraction device (with straws) and safely removing the fossil fuels (lemonade) from the ground.
At the mechanical engineering display she was handed three straws, some construction paper, tape, and four lifesavers and told to construct a car that would be propelled by wind power.The young men from the Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society ran this fine event with smiles on their faces and a mature patience not normally found in a young college student.Ava had a blast while she designed and created her vehicle shown here, with lifesaver wheels and straw axels.It ran true and straight on the floor from start to finish.
Another room and another car to construct, this one with leggo-like materials but real motors and a slew of materials to choose from.No one tells you what to build, or how to build it, but are available to answer questions.The entire day is about exploring solutions on your own and working with your own creativity, at any age.Her final product featured the windshield wiper of the future, which is round and purple (patent pending).
Further down the hall she spent some time with the girls in the Civil Engineering department who handed her a few random materials and had her build a tower that could withstand earthquake conditions.The room was packed with engineering students in their matching pink T-shirts, enthusiastically assisting scores of kids making towers in every random size and shape.Heavy equipment and jet engine cutaways made for interesting décor as Ava Jane finished her tower, passed the earthquake test, and moved on to her next adventure.
Lessons continued throughout a perfect afternoon.Ava Jane learned about how light waves bend and behave in solids and liquids, she learned how a sudden release of air pressure creates vapor if liquids are present, she watched electricity being created out of a lemon, and was challenged to build a boat with popsicle sticks, two straws, some tape and aluminum foil.Not only did it float, but it held 23 golf balls before collapsing and being pulled to a watery grave.The events were fun, informative, and designed to instill the next generation with the desire to learn about their world and how it works, and to hopefully do great things.We need more of this.
Nostalgia always sets in when I return to the campus.It looks vastly different now than it did almost 30 years ago, but so much is the same.More than just a fan of UT, I’m a fan of education.I strongly encourage any young person to experience those years and immerse themselves in the university environment.It’s a very formative time, an incredibly life-changing period of a young life that will challenge everything you’ve ever known about people and the world, and will force you to question everything down to your core values.
Being back there for a day reminded me of just that.It’s unfortunate that we live in a day and age when college is becoming costly to the point where it’s not a viable option for many kids.We also live in a time when college is not encouraged as strongly as it has been in the past, or online options are pursued in lieu of actual campus attendance.And being on campus and exposed to the gateways of the world is the most glorious benefit that college can bring to a young mind.
My daughter will be allowed to pursue any career she desires, and take any path that life offers her.And while she’s making up her young mind about where to go and what to do, her father will be right there to make sure she knows the options before her, and to encourage her to not let this experience pass her by.I love her too much to do otherwise.