April 24, 2013

In an effort to make girls more aware of what engineering does to improve the quality of life and to inspire them to become engineers, the LSU student chapters of Engineers Without Borders and Society of Women Engineers collaborated to create an event for fourth to eighth grade Girl Scouts.

The two organizations teamed up with Baton Rouge Girl Scouts to show them a day in the life of an engineer. EWB and SWE prepared an interactive presentation for the Girl Scouts to demonstrate how much water is used in the United States every day and how that compares to the amount of water people use in other countries. They also exhibited how much work goes into cleaning and distributing that water.

“It made the girls aware of how lucky we are here in the U.S. with our amazing water quality and distribution systems as opposed to a developing country where they have to walk miles every day just to get a couple gallons of water,” said Duyen Nguyen, chemical engineering senior and the EWB Louisiana State Representative.

The Girl Scouts then participated in a competition where they were broken into teams to design a water filter using a two-liter bottle and materials such as sand, gravel, cotton balls, soft and rough sponges, duct tape, rubber bands, coffee filters and paper clips. Their goal was to clean dirty water, which was a mixture of dirt and oil, as best they could with the materials given. The different materials were priced, and the girls had to work on a budget, which helped teach them that engineers have to produce both creative and cost-effective designs. The EWB and SWE volunteers acted as judges and handed out prizes.

“I was so impressed by the water filter designs, because some of the girls filtered the dirty, dark-brown, greasy water into virtually clear water!” Nguyen said. “It was refreshing to see how free the girls’ minds were. We’re so wrapped up in technical information that we sometimes forget how to let our minds roam and just be creative.”

SWE members were also impressed with the Girl Scouts’ designs.

“It doesn’t fail to amaze me how creative these girls are,” said Kalpanee Gunasingha, chemical engineering senior and president of SWE. “I forget that when you are so young, even if you don’t have all of the technical knowledge that college students have, you are still able to think outside the box.”

Because EWB is still a newer chapter at LSU, collaborating with SWE, a more-established organization at LSU, was very helpful, Nguyen said.

“Collaborations are always a great idea to me because you really get to bounce ideas around, learn from each other and grow from that,” Nguyen said.

The collaborative efforts of the two organizations also benefitted SWE.

“This was our first collaborative outreach event,” Gunasingha said. “It worked so well because both organizations were able to infuse their mission and messages into the event.”

The organizations aimed to develop an interest in STEM fields for the Girl Scouts and to allow them to ask questions about college and engineering. Gunasingha said that SWE members looked forward to serving as mentors for the girls. 

Another goal of the program was to educate girls about the world around them and show them that people in other countries often struggle for things that people in the U.S. take for granted every day.

“We wanted to show the girls that we have the power to go out and help those who are less fortunate than us, which is what [EWB] is all about,” Nguyen said.

For more information about the LSU Student Chapter of EWB, click here.

For more information about the LSU student chapter of SWE, click here

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Article written by Elise Bernard, communications intern. For more information, contact Cassie Thibeaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092. 



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