The challenge was simple. Working in teams of four or five, high school students built catapults using wooden sticks, tape and rubber bands. Then, they aimed mini marshmallows at three goals a few feet away. To improve their chances of winning, teams tried different catapult designs, various rubber band tensions and a range of angles to launch the marshmallows.
Although the catapult competition involved engineering and creativity, the real lesson was learning to work together, says civil engineering sophomore Erin Joy de Guzman.
“It’s about teamwork and fulfilling deadlines, things that engineers have to do,” she says. “Engineers don’t just work on their own. They have to work in a group.”
Catapult-building was one of a handful of YES (Youth Engineering Success) Program outreach activities on April 27 organized by the Society of Women Engineers. About 200 high school and middle school students, mostly female, from Southern California came to Cal Poly Pomona to learn about the engineering program. Students toured the engineering labs, watched demonstrations, talked with college students, and saw the SAE Baja car and the concrete canoe.
De Guzman hopes the tours and activities inspired more young women to consider engineering as a career.
“What we want is to keep women in school and to increase the number of women in engineering,” she says. “We hope to get them interested in engineering and the sciences.”
Schools included: Knight High school in Palmdale, Lancaster High School, Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne, Upland High School, Cabrillo High School, Fremont Academy of Engineering and Design in Pomona, Palomares Academy in Pomona, Mountain View High School in El Monte, Gahr High School in Cerritos, and James Monroe Middle School in Ridgecrest.
In recent years, the College of Engineering has been striving to increase the number of women in its majors. Nationally, women make up 18 percent of undergraduate engineering students. At Cal Poly Pomona, women number 13 percent.
“Our goals are to encourage young women to dream big and to show them how exciting and creative a career in engineering can be,” says Associate Dean Cordelia Ontiveros of the College of Engineering. “We hope this day inspired them to consider Cal Poly Pomona, one of the best engineering programs in the nation.”
(Top photo: Eryn Stevens from Da Vinci Science School in Hawthorne launches a marshmallow during the 3rd annual YES Program on April 27. Angeles Bejarano from Da Vinci launches a marshmallow at a target.)