Pella Chronicle

April 3, 2013

Engineering program for girls shows a rewarding career path

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — There are some great engineering jobs out there. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough engineers to work those jobs.

John Deere Ottumwa Works and some of their staff spent Tuesday morning introducing the next generation of potential employees to some possibilities.

Around 50 students, all girls from Evans Middle School, spent four hours with engineers, building and testing various gadgets.

“Introduce a girl to engineering” will hopefully get some of the students thinking. Amber Pargmann, an Engineering Team leader for Deere, said not only is there a problem finding enough engineers, her fellow female engineers make up only 8 percent of the workforce in that field.

These young ladies seemed to grasp concepts quickly.

“To make something work, sometimes you have to think outside the box,” said Lucy Kjer, an Evans eighth-grader asked what she learned at the event.

For example, Pargmann gave the girls a challenge. Take a single Pringles potato chip and build something to protect it.

The girls came up with some pretty good ideas, the engineer said. But she didn’t tell them what tests would be conducted, which is why Lucy said next time, the students would have to do more planning. And once the exercise was done, Lucy thought about the problem a bit differently. Rather than thinking of ways to protect a chip, she said she’d consider all the possible ways to break a chip.

So when Pargmann dropped the protected chips, most did pretty well, including one that floated gently to the ground. More chips suffered when she placed a heavy book on each of them. Then she caught nearly all of her young engineers off guard.

“They thought about dropping them, maybe throwing them against a wall. I don’t think they were expecting [us] to put the chips underwater,” Pargmann said.

“I’m planning to go to college for acting, but this is my Plan B,” said Zoe Klodt, an Evans eighth-grader. “Engineering is really interesting.”

She said she admires her older sister, who is in college studying chemical engineering. Many forms of engineering can be used to help people, Zoe believes.

“She’s going to be a pharmacist. And here people design [equipment] that helps farmers,” she said. “It’d be neat to have a similar job to hers.”