Engineering Like a Girl at the 5th Annual CEC
By Sarah Mangas (Associate Project Manager) and Kelly Oswald (Design Engineer)
The Air Zoo hosted the 5th annual Corporate Engineering Challenge (CEC) put on by several local Southwest Michigan companies and organized by the South Central Michigan chapter of Society of Women Engineers. Two of our female engineers, Sarah Mangas and Kelly Oswald, volunteered to judge the competition.
The CEC’s goal is to introduce young girls to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) before they hit middle school to spark creativity during this critical time and to foster a lifetime of learning. While the event is open to both girls and boys ages 9‒12, the majority of the 2018 challenge participants were female.
The teams were tasked with designing components that would help remote-controlled cars complete three unique challenges. During build time, we posed engineering-related questions to the participants to gauge their understanding of the concepts that they were applying to their designs.
For the first challenge, the car had to be driven up a series of two ramps. The girls had to modify the smooth plastic wheels to increase traction. Points were awarded for ramp distance achieved.
For the second activity, teams built a plow attachment to push beads into target areas to earn specific point values based on difficulty. This challenge proved to be the toughest for most groups.
The final task was to drive through a “victory tunnel” made from PVC pipe. The girls had to design a sign (larger than a specified minimum size) that mounted to their car but would still fit through the tunnel.
Awards were issued to teams scoring the most overall points (top four) and for those who demonstrated “best use of materials” in their signs, wheels, and plow-pushing blades (top two for each challenge).
Watching the teams literally jump for joy as their robotic cars climbed cardboard ramps, maneuvered beads into scoring positions, and traveled through the victory tunnels was so inspiring—we can’t wait to volunteer again at next year’s challenge!