Girls-only program aims for more female engineers

By Matt Tunseth

Alaska Star

Published: Thursday, Jan. 26 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

"The first thing that we did was pretty much the base," she said. "That's pretty much the foundation for everything — even in life."

After the structures were complete, Anito and Sheu put them through a variety of tests specific to Alaska. First, they dropped paper on top of the buildings to simulate heavy snow. Next, the women shook the desk the buildings sat on to test the structures' ability to withstand an earthquake.

Most stood up to both challenges.

"That was very impressive," Anito said.

Following the presentation, many of the girls peppered Anito and Sheu with questions about the engineering field. Sheu said that's the idea.

"Girls come up to us and say, 'I think I want to be an engineer now!'" she said. "That's cool."

Gruening seventh grader Laura Barber wore an MIT t-shirt to her school's presentation. Barber, who said she wants to study either computer or chemical engineering, said the Women's Initiative program only reinforced her desire to someday attend the school.

"I love MIT. I've wanted to go there for a long time," she said. "I love science."

Catherine Goolsby said the girls-only format helped her and her classmates let down their hair more than they might during a "normal" class period.

"It was really nice to have this be an all-girls thing and kind of show girls are awesome," she said. "It was fantastic."

Watching his students dive enthusiastically into engineering, Gruening's proud principal Bobby Jefts couldn't help but smile as he clicked off picture after picture of the event.

"These girls are going to be building our houses in 20 years," he said.

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