GizmoGirls Help Spur Youth Interest in Engineering

Norwich University has joined the Girl Scouts in an effort to get young girls interested in engineering. GizmoGirls, a year-long program sponsored by the Girl Scout Council of Vermont, offers girls in 6th - 8th grade a variety of activities including hands-on engineering, touring research labs and job sites, meeting women engineers in their fields, and participating in a cooperative project for a friendly year-end competition with other GizmoGirl teams. A group of five female Norwich engineering students are mentoring girls in the Northfield area as part of the program.

"The core values of the Girl Scouts, an organization that has been in existence for the past 90 years, include helping girls to realize their potential and feel confident and strong," said Tracy True of the Girl Scout Council of Vermont. "GizmoGirls is a different way to participate in an all-girl experience. It is not a troop, but a team format with trained mentors who teach basic engineering concepts, guide activities and support girls' natural curiosity. GizmoGirls is just one more way Girl Scouts supports the investigation of non-traditional female roles in a safe, supportive atmosphere."

True related that the GizmoGirls program is funded by a Girl Scouts of America grant and sponsored by Lockheed Martin - a major employer of engineers. "The Vermont grant is one of 15 that were awarded nationally," True said.

The Norwich students meet with the Northfield area GizmoGirls two to four times a month for a total of four hours. "The first session, we did team-building exercises to get to know each other," said Valerie Knight, a sophomore from Dover, Delaware. "We wanted to help them learn communication skills and also to learn the benefits of working together." Knight said that the Norwich students follow a curriculum provided by the GizmoGirls program. "As they get further along in the sessions, we will be doing more complex, engineering-related projects," Knight explained.

"We'll also plan some field trips to give the girls a chance to see engineering principles being used in everyday situations," said Alyson Baird, a senior Norwich student from Palalka, Florida.

Currently there are a half dozen Northfield girls enrolled in the program. The Norwich students hope to spark enough interest in the local community to put together several five-member teams and participate in a competition against other Vermont GizmoGirls teams held at UVM in the spring.

"I feel that the GizmoGirls is a very good program," said Carol Stephens, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Norwich. "We have to fight the misconception that the field of engineering is solely for males. Getting girls interested in math and science at a younger age is a great step towards fighting this stereotype."

by Mark Albury
pubrel@norwich.edu
January 2004

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