Elisabeth Josellis (stooping) and Claire Reichenbach (on ladder), of Edgewood Middle School, check wooden cars with eggs in them after they ran down the ramp during the school’s engineering activity Thursday.  Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union
Elisabeth Josellis (stooping) and Claire Reichenbach (on ladder), of Edgewood Middle School, check wooden cars with eggs in them after they ran down the ramp during the school’s engineering activity Thursday. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union
At least 60 Edgewood Middle School female students participated in the school’s third annual engineering activity Thursday.

The purpose of the event, called “Forget Princess, I want to be an Engineer,” is to introduce engineering to students so they might consider it in their future career pathways, said Abbi Richcreek, Edgewood engineering/technology teacher.

The students were broken up into 13 groups, each headed by a mentor.

“They are going to do a hands-on engineering challenge,” Richcreek said. The challenge was to take two eggs, put them in a wooden car and have them go down a ramp and hit a block. The goal is to have the eggs not crack.

Some of the rules Richcreek gave the students included they could not glue the eggs into the cars and had to somehow strap the eggs into the car. The students also could not glue the wheels or affect the mobility of the car the eggs were in.

“It seems like there’s not that many women in engineering, so therefore, I decided to develop some activities to develop that interest,” Richcreek said. “There are some classes at the middle school level, but sometimes it’s a cultural or society thought or that maybe there’s too many boys in the class so they can’t do it, but they can.”

Richcreek decided to create this activity to allow female students the opportunity to see if they are interested in engineering. If they are, they can continue that interest into high school.

“They are designing and they are using their hands to develop the solution,” Richcreek said. “It’s all about the thought process and the design process.”

During the collaborating time, the group talked over what they want to do, possibly do some trial-and-error and talk through things with their mentor.

“I haven’t officially tracked (how many girls continue to take engineering classes into high school),” said Richcreek. “But I do have a lot of girls that continue this in high school and they’ve come and taken a class and continued it in high school.”

Richcreek said there is a limit to the amount of times students can participate in the engineering event.

Seventh- and eighth-grade girls at Edgewood can only participate in Thursday’s engineering event once, Richcreek said. If students are interested in participating in it again, those students become volunteers and helpers.

Thursday’s event did not take away from the participating students’ learning experience at the school.

On Thursdays, Edgewood has a longer class period called student resource time, in which students can do any homework that they might have or do a reteach session, Richcreek said. The event was held during that period.

“It does not take (the students) out of any of their core classes or take them out of any of their regular classes at all,” said Richcreek.

There is a difference between participating in the event and leading.

Mia Blocher, a volunteer and student at Edgewood, said while they can’t participate in the actual event, they can help answer questions.

The volunteers also help set up the event.

“You get to see how much actually goes into (the event),” Blocher said.

“Society of Women in Engineering – Northeast Indiana Chapter has sponsored this event every year,” said Richcreek. She said the organization paid for T-shirts, which are printed at Edgewood, that were given to all students after the event was done.

“Ms. Richcreek reached out to me to be a keynote speaker at a big workshop that they do at the Warsaw Area Career Center and I participated there, and we got to talking and I said, ‘I’d love to keep doing this every year,’” said Jennifer Molinda, president of the Society.

One of the big pillars in the organization is outreach within the community and encouraging female engineers to get started in the engineering track, Molinda said.

“All of (the mentors) are either from the community or the Society,” Molinda said, adding some of the mentors are part of the Society and from Fort Wayne and others are from the community.

Some of the organizations  represented by mentors included the city of Fort Wayne, DePuy and Zimmer Biomet.

“It’s great because it’s like  a hands-on exploratory process into engineering,” Molinda said. “It’s not so much math and science and sitting in the classroom and learning the fundamentals. It’s actually getting to try and build something and test it and design, which is a little bit less rigorous than academic coursework. It’s kind of a good opportunity to try it out.”

“We’ve always gotten good feedback,” Richcreek said. “I’ve not had a bad experience, so I would like to continue this as long as the Society of Women in Engineering (is) willing to continue.”

“It’s a great time,” said Molinda.

Some volunteers did provide their thoughts on the event.

“I’ve never liked how men are seen as the engineers,” said Claire Reichenbach, a volunteer at the event and a student at Edgewood. She likes the idea of having girls be given the chance of getting into the field.

“I like the idea of finding out what engineering is,” said Blocher. The students get to see role models in the field.

This year’s event was slightly bigger than previous years.

“We typically have 50, but more (students) had interest this year and I don’t have the heart to say no,” said Richcreek. “So I just took the 60 made it work.”