MERRILLVILLE │ On Monday it was about creating an 8-inch structure to hold a bag of chocolate candy. In the future it could evolve to building bridges, buildings, gas or spacecrafts.
About 100 second- to sixth-grade girls from the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts took part in “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” at NIPSCO's headquarters.
The three-hour event, organized by NiSource Inc.’s Developing and Advancing Women at NiSource women’s affinity group, included a tour of NIPSCO’s electric and natural gas dispatching centers, hands-on demonstrations, interactive displays of damaged and repaired utility poles, and an engineering skills challenge involving Hershey's Kisses.
One of the first groups to complete the challenge was a Girl Scout troop from Orland Park, Ill.
“Right now we’re over-engineering it,” said Therese Jaeger, 11. “We were in robotics and we did stuff like this all the time. We kind of got the knack down.”
The skills challenge, in addition to the popular chocolate, included the use of a water bottle, glue, paper and tape and a little assistance from a NIPSCO female engineer.
“It’s fun to put random things together,” said Ashley Kirstein, 10.
Vicki King, director of new business ventures and alliances for the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts, said the organization has found through natural research that when getting young girls actively engaged in science, technology, engineering and math at an early age, “it sparks them.”
“Especially if they have the opportunity to speak with women role models,” she said. “Then they say to themselves, ‘I never knew I could do this.’ It alters the way they think about themselves and what they can achieve.”
Rhiannon Aldrich, 8, and Emma Haller, 9, worked on the skills challenge together as a team representing a Girl Scout troop in Lowell.
“I like that we are able to do teamwork,” Rhiannon said. “I like building things. We had fun making it.”
Kelly Hays, NIPSCO engineer and the girls’ mentor, said the young duo took it upon themselves to create what they called a “robotic angel.”
“They’ve done it all on their own,” Hays said.
NiSource Chief Legal Officer Carrie Hightman told the girls that at the end of the day, they will realize being a good engineer requires creativity, problem-solving and imagination.
“And who better than girls like all of you to have all those skills and be able to be really good engineers when you grow up,” she said. “We’re hoping to get more folks like you at this company 15 to 20 years from now.”