Marlee Poupard took a seat inside a race car Sunday and took it for a spin on a large projection screen, trying to turn the fastest lap possible.
Though the 9-year-old from Sylvania won’t be getting behind the wheel of a real car anytime soon, the University of Toledo hopes the experience will lead her to consider a career in engineering. The school is celebrating Engineers Week and invited elementary school students and their families to Nitschke Auditorium, where the theme was “Inspiring Wonder.”
Razziahlynn Armstrong, 4, of Toledo, watches as the boat she made, and her choice of weight in it, puts her among the top scores in a contest created by the First Year Rocket Program, a group of first-year Engineering majors at UT.
About 150 people attended the free event, which included more than a dozen activities designed to inspire youth. The racing simulation, organized by UT’s Formula SAE motorsports team, was easily the most popular.
“I love racing, and cars are one of my favorite things,” Marlee said. “And I love to play Mario Kart.”
FSAE is an extracurricular activity allowing UT students to design, build, and race their own car in competition against universities from around the world. UT freshman Ben Wolak said it’s his favorite part of college.
“As soon as they saw it, the kids were freaking out,” Mr. Wolak said. “One of the kids was screaming, ‘Pedal to the metal.’ I think we have the longest line of any activity.”
A short film aired at the beginning, detailing several ways to get involved in engineering. Designing buildings to withstand earthquakes, building bridges and skyscrapers, and operating robots were highlighted.
College of Engineering dean Mike Toole arrived at UT six months ago. He said getting the college more involved with Engineers Week was a priority.
Addison Hendricks, 6, of Oregon, center, racing in a car made by UT students for the Formula SAE competition. With her are University of Toledo students Michael Gordon, of Harrisburg, Pa., left, and Ben Wolak, of South Lyon, Michigan.
“Our goal is to get people thinking about what engineers do, hoping a lot of the young women and men will think about being an engineer,” Mr. Toole said. “ What [the film] didn’t capture are things we can do in medicine, cybersecurity, preventing nuclear terror. There are all these things we can do not only to help make life more convenient, but also maker it safer and healthier.”
Marlee also said she made towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows, and turned tinfoil into a boat.
Women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. engineering graduates, a statistic UT would like to change. The college is hosting its first Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at 10 a.m. Thursday for girls in grades 5-8.
Girls will tour facilities, have lunch with engineering students, and spend the afternoon participating in hands-on activities.
“The goal is to show girls this could be something for them,” said Lesley Berhan, associate professor and interim assistant dean of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. “A lot of times, girls don’t really see themselves as engineers. Engineering is about making a difference in the world, and young girls may not always think engineering is a way to do that.”
Croix Lomont, 12, of Fort Wayne, Ind., constructed a paper airplane and tried to fly it through a set of three hoops, each one smaller than the previous hoop. He said the secret to a good paper airplane is all about the folds.
“If you fold it well, it will fly farther,” Croix said. “And if the edges are bent, that can slow it down sometimes too.”
Croix’s father, Ed Lomont, works for Dana, Inc., building axles for the Chevrolet Colorado. Croix said he would like to follow in his dad’s footsteps, but also said he wants to build schools.
“I think it’s excellent to get the kids involved and inspire them,” Mr. Lomont said.
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