Sorority organizes

David Hyland

It was a visit to Emily Eelkema’s high school by University professors that propelled her interest in aerospace engineering. On Saturday, the Institute of Technology senior returned the favor.
As a fund-raising coordinator and member of Alpha Sigma Kappa Women in Technical Studies sorority, she helped organize Science Exploration Day for more than 30 sixth- and seventh-grade girls.
“This kind of breaks the stereotypes to show them that engineering is cool,” Eelkema said.
Jenny Cordina, the sorority’s scholastic chairperson and chief organizer of the project, said the reason for the event is to present science and engineering to young girls and get them excited about it.
With this year’s focus on engineering, the middle school girls participated in experiments in aerospace, civil, electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering.
Every year, the sorority buses students in from towns around Minnesota. Cordina, an Apple Valley native, encouraged girls from her hometown to attend the event.
The program is something the 9-year-old sorority started at least four years ago, Cordina said. The sorority, along with the IT board, started planning this year’s event at the end of winter quarter.
The school’s Program for Women paid most of the $500 cost for the program. To attend the program, the middle school girls also paid $4.
The day began with a lecture from University aerospace engineering professor Ellen Longmire. Using wooden planes and a model of the space shuttle currently in development, Longmire demonstrated how planes and helicopters fly.
As the day went on, the girls saw five different experiments set up around campus. While one experiment about polymers featured Huggies diapers, another presented the mechanical workings of an injection molding machine that made chocolate. To demonstrate aerodynamic principles, an experiment showed water moving across an airplane wing.
For 12-year-old Ashley Sciesser of Rosemount, Minn., the highlight of the day was making Silly Putty during the presentation about polymers. Sciesser said after seeing all the demonstrations, she wants to learn more about aerospace engineering.
But of all the demonstrations, the most popular seemed to be the quicksand experiment. While the girls had their hands stuck in a tank of sand, civil engineers changed sand into quicksand by releasing water into the tank.
“I want to be a civil engineer right now,” said 12-year-old Megan Campbell.
And that is all the organizers said they wanted.
“Our hope is just for the girls to learn something so they can see what’s out there, to see what their possibilities are,” Eelkema said.