Sweet Briar College Getting Girls Enthusiastic About Engineering

Amherst Co., VA- A group of students brought back some ancient weapons of war Thursday night, but on a much smaller scale. It was fun and educational, it was engineering in action. And it was just for a group of middle school girls.

The event at Sweet Briar College was part of a series to get more girls interested in engineering. And what better way, than to put together some mini-trebuchets.

"It was really the fact that in high school in my engineering class I was only one of two girls in the class," said Kelsey Barta, an engineering student at Sweet Briar.

The number of women receiving degrees in science and technology is on the decline. In the U.S., women get about 20% of the engineering degrees handed out by colleges every year. But Barta is looking to break that trend.

"The stuff we do is really fun and it's not just stuff men can do. Women can do it too," she said.

Barta started an after school program offering girls from local middle schools an interactive look at engineering, and the things that can be created. She hopes by starting them young, the career path won't be so intimidating when they're older.

"Once they get into high school and start thinking about what they want to do, they can think--oh engineering is really fun, maybe I want to do that," said Barta.

Engineering Instructor Bethany Brinkman says giving the girls hands-on lessons is the best way to show them what engineering is about.

"It's not just a concept they learned about in school. You know they're actually doing something, building something," said Brinkman.

The girls have gotten practical lessons in chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering. After dying T-shirts and building trebuchets, Barta says she may have gained a few engineering enthusiasts.

"There's definitely a big jump of people who are more interested in engineering after the workshop," she said.

There are many different kinds of careers in engineering. You can do anything from building bridges, to creating software, to even developing medicines. And for any girls out there considering it, you can also make a pretty good living.