Getting kids excited about science gets Daniella Rivera excited.
The USU junior is the vice president of outreach for the USU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, a position that involves creating and conducting programs to familiarize young people, especially girls, to engineering and other STEM subjects. Her latest endeavor will bring 60 grade-schoolers to USU this Saturday for a day of hands-on learning.
The event is called Engineering Extravaganza Jr. It’s a puppy version of the SWE’s annual Engineering Extravaganza for high school students, conducted each spring.
“I’m excited for the students to come up on campus and get some ideas and help them get interested in science and engineering,” Rivera said, explaining the conference will be divided into four sections dealing with separate branches of engineering: biological, aerospace, electrical and computer, and civil and environmental.
All 60 slots for the free workshop have been filled. Both boys and girls, grades three through five, will participate in the Extravaganza Jr., while the high school version of the program is only for girls.
Activities will include things like building a mini-trebuchet and creating a Play-Doh electrical circuit, all with the hopes of helping students get a taste of the skills involved in STEM careers.
Rivera said it was in middle school in West Jordan that she first entertained the idea of an engineering career.
“I actually wanted to do like Red Cross work and travel the world and do stuff like that, but when I told my mom, she said, ‘You’re not going to be able to build a life off of that,’” Rivera recalled. “And so I kind of just started looking into other careers. I always loved math, and the idea of science and climate was something I’d been interested in. … It just seemed to fit.”
Rivera followed that track to become the first member of her family to attend college. After earning her bachelor’s in engineering, she has her sights set on a graduate degree in climate science and aerospace engineering, which she hopes will lead to working with satellites that measure atmospheric conditions.
Engineering Extravaganza Jr. was among many SWE-sponsored youth programs canceled last year due to COVID concerns, but most are finding their way back on the calendar.
“SWE hosts a variety of community outreach events each year, and this event is a great showcase of some of the work they do,” USU engineering department spokeswoman Matilyn Mortensen said.