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Girls get an exercise in engineering during visit to UC Irvine

A group of young girls got a chance to explore engineering Monday through a set of challenges and experiments at UC Irvine presented by a Laguna Beach nonprofit.

They also got to see the sights of UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and learn from female engineering students and faculty members about pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or math.

The girls, ages 4-12, are part of Project Scientist, a nonprofit founded in 2011 by Laguna Beach resident Sandy Marshall. The organization leads summer STEM academies and year-round science expeditions for girls in California, Minnesota and North Carolina. The latest program will open in Atlanta this summer.

“This day was the start of an exciting new partnership with UC Irvine,” Marshall said. “We will be back on campus this summer for our weekly STEM academies. UC Irvine offers great resources for us, along with many strong female role models in the sciences that young girls can learn from.”

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The girls made origami, built and tested a catapult made of Popsicle sticks and rubber bands, made paper airplanes for a flying competition, demonstrated how to float an egg in water and build an egg holder to keep the egg from breaking when dropped, used a balloon to demonstrate the effects of heat and cold on air pressure and competed to build the tallest gummy tower.

“The egg drop was really exciting to see if your egg broke or not and to build something that the egg wouldn’t break in,” said Aleena Thomas, 9, of Irvine.

“This was a great experience for the girls to get exposure to engineering and science,” said A. Lili Castillo, outreach co-chairwoman for the UCI chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. “For us, it’s a unique way to give back to the community, especially with something that gives us so much passion.”

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