Many of the young girls who attended Saturday’s Rosie Revere Engineer Day were more interested in doing than talking.
Volunteer John Shirron encouraged youngsters to try their hand at civil engineering by designing an airport. It was an appropriate exercise since Saturday’s event at Pearson Field Education Center was next door to one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating airfields.
Shirron explained they needed to glue a control tower, taxiways and one or more runways to yellow paper and give their airport a three-letter code, such as PDX for Portland International Airport.
He patiently asked 5-year-old Madeline Alford what airports she had been to but received more information from her mother, Alyssa Alford, including that the Vancouver girl has been to PDX and Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX.
“Did you go to Disneyland?” Shirron asked Madeline. “How did I know that?”
Saturday’s event featured stations to introduce young girls to engineering and encourage them to pursue careers in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. Each station included a “Great Women in Engineering” display for women who blazed a trail these girls might someday take.
Saturday’s event took its name from “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” a 2013 children’s book written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Robert. The New York Times best-seller tells the story of a shy girl who dreams of becoming an engineer and conducts experiments she hides under her bed.
One day, her great-great aunt, Rose, comes to visit. Rose is “Rosie the Riveter,” the iconic character representing women who worked in aircraft factories, shipyards and other industrial sites during World War II.
Rose reveals that she has always dreamed of flying. Rosie Revere sets out to build a flying machine, but her contraption hovers for a moment before crashing to the ground. The experience instills an important lesson in the would-be engineer:
“Life might have its failures, but this was not it,” Beaty wrote. “The only true failure can come if you quit.”
The first 50 kids who completed all stations received copies of “Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers,” which provides guidance for drawing and making more than 40 items.
Saturday’s event had a good turnout on a rainy day as children scampered between different stations under and besides historic aircraft.
Michelle Marra, Pearson Field Education Center director, said more than 550 people attended Rosie Revere Engineer Day, a big increase from the 50 who turned out for last year’s inaugural event.
“Today, we exceeded that in 13 minutes,” she said “We had people here before we even opened the doors.”
The stations taught youngsters about one law of motion, how circuits work and what happens when you combine an acid (lemon juice) with a base (baking soda).
“We’re trying to take big concepts and bring them down to the kid’s level,” Marra said.
The event was geared toward young girls, in part because only 14 percent of working engineers today are women, Marra said.
“We want to inspire girls and give them positive role models early on,” she said.
So what about all the boys at Saturday’s event?
“Just because we want to empower women doesn’t mean by any means we want to exclude boys,” Marra said.
Clark College engineering students, part of the “NERD Girls and GEEKS” program, operated two stations. NERD stands for “Not even remotely dorky,” and GEEKS is an acronym for “Gentlemen Engineering Enthusiasts and Kindred Spirits.”
The engineering students sought to illustrate Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion — For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — using balloons, straws, pencils, tape and pins to create a straw and balloon that would spin on the end of a pencil.
Many kids didn’t have enough lung power to fill the balloon, which is when mom, dad or another adult stepped in. The sight of spinning balloon wheel never failed to bring a smile to the child’s face.
“Pretty cool stuff,” said Justin Sullivan, a second-year mechanical engineering student at Clark College. “It’s a nice similarity between my classes and the kid’s version, if you will.”
Tina Barsotti, a mechanical engineering professor at Clark College who chairs the Engineering, Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, and Surveying and Geomatics Department, said community events serve a dual purpose. They encourage children to consider an engineering career, and they help engineering students hone their interaction skills.
“It’s good for the little kids,” Barsotti said. “And it’s good for my adult students.”
The Pearson Field Education Center, 201A East Reserve St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday with no admission charge, The center features many hands-on exhibits, including a vertical wind table, computer flight simulators and a device that mimics landing a jet fighter on an aircraft carrier.