About 40 local Girl Scouts and students from Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead spent a day building bridges, touring labs and learning about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at the 3rd Annual Girls in Engineering Day hosted by the Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science.
In a hands-on workshop, Saryn Goldberg, associate professor of mechanical engineering and Edward Segal, assistant professor of civil engineering, taught the girls how to build suspension bridges with paperclips and how to measure changes in the forces in the main cable as a function of the shape of the cable and the load distribution. The 9th, 10th and 11th graders then used what they learned to design and build their own suspension bridges out of masking tape, with the goal of holding the highest load with the least amount of tape.
“While I hope that the girls take away a better understanding of the engineering concepts from the workshop, I also hope that the exercise gave the girls a sense for the design process and the importance of collaboration and communication in solving complex engineering problems,” Dr. Goldberg said.
The girls were later divided into teams and, with the guidance of female students from Hofstra’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE), used what they learned to design their own bridges.
“I really didn’t know a lot about engineering before today,” said Sophia Sapodin, a ninth-grader at Half Hollows Hill High School. “And I never knew that you could build a bridge out of paperclips!”
Civil engineering major Tyler Bailey ’22 was one of the Hofstra students who volunteered at the event.
“As an aspiring civil engineer and full-time student at Hofstra, I believe that hands-on experience, teamwork, problem solving, networking, and trial and error are the best way to learn,” Bailey said. “I hope that the girls benefited from all of that.”
In addition to touring DeMatteis labs, the girls attended a presentation with Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, P.E., vice president of AECOM – a global design, engineering, construction and management firm. Shah-Gavnoudias shared her experience as a civil engineer and as the former Nassau County Commissioner of Public Works and discussed the variety of career paths and opportunities available to young women in STEM.
“If you’re interested in engineering, take the opportunity to get broad experience,” Shah-Gavnoudias said. “No job is too small, and each experience will help guide you on your career path.”
“Once you’re an engineer, you’re capable of doing anything from teaching and law to careers in computer technology or even finance,” she added.
The annual event was organized by Philip Coniglio, director of the DeMatteis Co-op Program and is designed to help get female high school students excited about opportunities in STEM fields.