Reuben H. Fleet Science Center ‘Sci Tech Girls’ Field Trip Dec 10th, 2011
The Sci Tech girls – fourth to eighth grade girls from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center after school program – came in for their first plant visit today to meet a few engineers and to learn a little more about engineering. Thirty girls rolled out of the bus at a quarter till nine with three chaperones. Ten volunteers from our ‘Women in Engineering’ affinity group – closely associated with the Society of Women Engineers – welcomed them to our discussion, hands on activity, and tour.
The girls were alert and attentive during our introductory ‘From Turbines to Facebook’ engine basics. They wanted to know how our company was founded, what our engines were doing in the various countries, how the parts came into the company to be manufactured, and what we were doing to support the green energy initiatives. If we didn’t have a preset schedule – including a tour and hands-on build a generator activity – we very well might have still been talking about electricity, blackouts, pumping stations, how fuel gets to the engines, and the power grid itself.
I’ve participated in quite a few youth based initiatives from our annual bring your child to work day to other SWE K-12 outreach events. The youth always tend to enjoy the icebreakers, hands on activities and tours. But there was something very different about this set of very young girls – mostly under the age of 10 – that went beyond their high degree of being respectful and attentive. They had developed the art of asking questions. Good, open-ended questions, to probe the depths of what it is like to be an engineer.
The ability to ask questions is by definition key to the scientific mind. It is a key part of the art of discovery and crucial in problem solving. When I commented on how well the girls had asked questions, their education director credited this skill to training. They have the girls watch videos of scientists and engineers – from their Sci Tech blog – and have them practice asking questions. Their skills of scientific inquiry were definitely paying off. They had won the hearts of the volunteers as their young protegees asked questions about their jobs, what a typical day in the life of an engineer was, and how this fit into the world around us.
By 1pm, our lively Q&A session with our engineering panel – representing manufacturing, design, and analysis – wrapped up. The students meticulously picked up their personal belongings cleaning up the area around them, expressed their sincere gratitude, and piled back onto the bus heading home to the science center.