Spreading exposure on engineering

Published 5:56 pm Thursday, November 18, 2021

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One Girl Scout used her Gold Award project to help younger girls expand their horizons when it comes to their careers.

Evelyn Taliaferro is a senior at Nansemond River High School who earned the highest honor and achievement in Girl Scouts, the Gold Award.

To earn this award, Taliaferro had to work a minimum of 80 hours on a project that addressed a global issue in her community. She decided to create a website and curriculum to help expose young girls to the different branches of the engineering field early on in their school years.

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Taliaferro always had an interest in math and science but wasn’t sure how she would fit that into a future career. Then a project at school exposed her to the branches of engineering, and she fell in love. Knowing that women make up a small percentage of STEM fields, she wanted her project to expose elementary and middle school girls to engineering.

“I wanted to give this exposure to young girls in the community who never had the exposure to the STEM field,” said Taliaferro. “This is especially the case in certain engineering fields where women are still so underrepresented. I hope this project is a step towards changing that in the future.”

Her EngineerKids! website highlights the six branches of engineering. Kids and parents can click on each one to see a description, possible careers, an interview from an expert in that field and a hands-on craft. After learning about each one, kids can also take the quiz to see what they learned.

To put her work into action, Taliaferro did craft workshops and a PowerPoint to a group of 10 to 20 elementary and middle schoolers at the YMCA. To measure her progress, she surveyed the students at the beginning and end of her workshops. The surveys showed that students’ interest in engineering increased by 17% on average and their scores on the knowledge quiz increased from an average of 59% to 73%.

“My inspiration was going from not knowing anything about engineering or what it was to having the opportunity to learn more,” said Taliaferro. “I want to give girls the chance to pursue it in the future.”

She also created a box of supplies to donate to Isle of Wight Academy for teachers to use her curriculum with their students. After completing her project, the 80-hour minimum turned into a 120-hour final log.

Taliaferro is currently applying to colleges to earn her degree in electrical engineering.

Visit Taliaferro’s site at engineerkids.org to learn more about her work and engineering.