Barta hopes program flips a switch

| January 24, 2013

Kelsey Barta, a sophomore engineering student at Sweet Briar, will host about 20 area sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls for an after-school “Engineering for Girls” event Thursday, Jan. 31 at Guion Science Center.

The workshop is the second of three events that Barta has planned as part of a scholarship-funded project intended to introduce girls to the field of engineering.

Kelsey Barta ’15

Each session allows the students to explore a different area of the discipline through hands-on activities. Last November, participants covered chemical engineering. On Feb. 14, the girls will build trebuchets from kits and test them to learn about mechanical engineering.

Barta devised the activity for Thursday’s session on her own, coming up with the idea for a ball-rolling game to show how electrical circuits work. Two separate open circuits — one that lights an LED when closed, the other wired to a buzzer — are enclosed in a shallow box.

Circular openings are cut into the lid covering the wiring so that a metal ball rolled around the surface when it is tilted can become seated on the exposed wires, closing the circuit to either light the LED or sound the buzzer.

With help from Sweet Briar student volunteers, the girls will put the boxes together themselves, including wiring the circuits. The games are theirs to keep.

The Pannell Merit Scholarship funding the “Engineering for Girls” series allows recipients to spend their sophomore year exploring any project or topic that is important to them. Barta’s idea arose from her own experiences in her Seattle high school’s engineering pathways program, where she was one of only two girls.

“I always thought, ‘I don’t know why there aren’t other girls in here, because the stuff that we do is fun,’ ” she says. “So I figured middle school would probably be a good age to expose girls to engineering, because they can then discover what it is and that they can actually have a career in it.

Maybe as they move on to high school and start thinking about what they want to do, they might think of engineering.”

Jennifer McManamay

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Category: Engineering Science