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Engineering a better world with girl power

April 11, 2019

Students from ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools open their doors to youth from across the Valley

Nearly 200 girls from Girl Scout troops and schools around the Phoenix metropolitan area stormed Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for GEAR Day on Saturday, March 30.

GEAR Day is an outreach initiative hosted by ASU’s Society of Women Engineers chapter. The event offers girls and boys a glimpse into science and engineering through interactive activities and design challenges, such as building solar cars and experimenting with buoyancy. Participants from second to 12th grade have the chance to explore new interests and see the impact of science and engineering on everyday life.

“Engineering is all about using different tools to solve issues facing society,” said Elizabeth Jones, the outreach coordinator for ASU’s Society of Women Engineers chapter and an electrical engineering major in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “If girls like building things, creating new tools and using their imagination to solve problems, we should encourage them to do so through engineering.”

This year’s event had a sustainability theme to help girls and boys understand how the work of engineers can be applied to practical applications and prominent issues in the world. The participants learned about the importance of clean drinking water from the crisis in Flint, Michigan; the need to protect marine life from oil spills and the demand for renewable energy as a clean alternative to power the world.

Equipped with newfound knowledge, the participants put their skills to the test and started building solutions. They created water filtration systems, devised methods to clean up oil pollution and constructed solar-powered cars.

girl scouts standing with Sparky the Sun Devil

Girl Scout Emma Rice (right) and other troop members pose with Sparky after a morning filled with interactive activities and design challenges at GEAR Day, an outreach event hosted by Arizona State University’s Society of Women Engineers. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

“Too many girls believe they can’t do engineering simply because they are a girl,” said Kamawela Leka, a volunteer at the event and a biomedical engineering major in the Fulton Schools. “It’s important to inspire these young girls to pursue engineering because the more minds we have tackling some of today’s biggest problems, the better we have a chance to solve them.”

Girl Scout troop leader Roberta Rice and her daughter, Emma, have been attending GEAR Day for about eight years. She believes the event dispels common misconceptions about science and engineering: It’s for boys, it’s boring or it’s too difficult for girls. She says it’s important for girls to know these fields are fun.

“I love GEAR Day,” said Emma Rice, a sophomore at Highland High School and a Girl Scout member. “You get a taste of everything. When I was very young, I built a catapult and solar-powered car. Now, I’m creating a device to help the ocean get rid of oil and trash — a serious problem for the Earth today.”

In addition to solving pressing societal needs, Emma Rice enjoys meeting new people and learning how to collaborate and work as a team. These are critical components of the engineering design process.

“An engineering tool to solve a problem is only as strong as the diversity of the team that creates it,” Jones said.

Jones grew up in a small town where the idea of a female in engineering wasn’t accepted. She decided to pursue engineering because people told her she couldn’t — even though she knew she could. Now, she is dedicated to being a role model for young girls and an advocate for getting more women into engineering professions.

Cynthia Arebalo, a bilingual elementary education major in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, brought her daughter, Madison, to the event with the hope of showing her all the possible career paths available.

“Madison really likes science and math, and does really well in them,” Arebalo said. “I just want her to know she has options and she gains more confidence in her ability to do whatever she wants.”

Arebalo was also incredibly grateful the Society of Women Engineers didn’t charge admission for the event but instead hosted a school supply drive to donate to middle and high school teachers across the Valley.

Nearly 60 volunteers from the Society of Women Engineers and other student organizations in the Fulton Schools helped ensure GEAR Day was a successful event. The volunteers were committed to showing parents and participants the breadth of engineering and the importance of diversity of thought in the field.

“Young girls still see so many paths cut off for them simply because of the prejudices and stereotypes that still surround them,” Leka said. “Girls can do so much more than people believe.”  

Top photo: Madison Arebalo, 9, channels her inner engineer as she builds a filtration system to clean contaminants from water during the afternoon session of GEAR Day on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Amanda Stoneman

Senior Marketing Content Specialist , EdPlus


Fellner awarded Fulbright Specialist grant to North Macedonia

April 11, 2019

Dan Fellner, faculty affiliate with the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has received a prestigious Fulbright Specialist grant to the Republic of North Macedonia.

This is Fellner’s seventh Fulbright fellowship; previously he has received Fulbright Scholar grants to Latvia, Moldova and Bulgaria, and Fulbright Specialist grants to Indonesia, Lithuania and Latvia. Additionally, he has taught a one-week intensive course in communications four times at the Fulbright International Summer Institute in Bulgaria, which borders North Macedonia. Dan Fellner Dan Fellner. Download Full Image

Fellner joined Arizona State University as a faculty associate in 1998. He has taught courses in print and broadcast journalism, public relations, international mass media, intercultural communications and travel writing. He currently teaches courses in Eastern Europe, Asia, Cuba and other foreign destinations for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

In North Macedonia, Fellner will be teaching a course in intercultural communications and conducting other lectures at the Saints Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, or UKIM, during a six-week period beginning in late April. UKIM is the oldest and most prestigious university in North Macedonia, which recently changed its name from the Republic of Macedonia to resolve a three-decade-long dispute with its neighbor, Greece. Greece had blocked the country’s full international recognition, including its admission to NATO and the European Union, since its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1992.  

Skopje, capital of North Macedonia, is Tempe’s sister city. The relationship dates back to 1971, when Skopje was part of socialist Yugoslavia. As part of that relationship, ASU and UKIM collaborated to exchange students and faculty between the 1970s and the early 2000s. Fellner’s Fulbright is one of a set of initiatives the two universities are pursuing to revitalize the partnership. During summer 2019, UKIM Professor Borche Arsov will teach Macedonian at ASU’s Critical Languages Institute in Tempe, while School of Politics and Global Studies faculty members Henry Sivak and Daniel Pout will head a study abroad program to Greece and Northern Macedonia.

"The University of Saints Cyril and Methodius and Arizona State University share a commitment to the importance of higher education for broader society. We are pleased to be extending our collaboration by hosting Professor Fellner as a Fulbright specialist," said Professor Nikola Jankulovski, rector of UKIM. 

“As a vibrant, multicultural democracy that avoided major violence throughout a turbulent period, the Republic of North Macedonia offers lessons and inspiration for foreign scholars and students,” said Keith Brown, director of the Melikian Center. “We look forward to the mutual learning that Professor Fellner’s Fulbright will set in motion.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Fulbright Specialist Program provides awards to U.S. academics and professionals to work in partnership with academic, nonprofit and cultural institutions in over 100 countries. Grants range from two to six weeks.