Category Archives: Engineering

Engineering is Cool #2: Rube Goldberg Devices

Girl Scouts Rube Goldberg

I recently had my daughter’s Girl Scout troop build Rube Goldberg devices as a meeting activity.  They utilized an assortment of toys I’d brought from home to shove a little ducky off the table.  The activity counted towards the Brownie’s Inventor badge and I was able to find a very cute fun patch for everyone that participated.   The ingenuity of the the girls when it came to creating something was fabulous.

I had made a very simple device as an example and was very happy to see that they didn’t just copy me.  The group I was “coaching” didn’t need any coaching at all.  They put things together, tried it, then made modifications to make it better.  The engineer in me was so proud!  When we do this again (and we will definitely do it again) I’m going to make sure we have the entire meeting to create because the girls were all very bummed when we moved on to a different activity.  I also need to come up with lesson verbiage that they can understand which describes the transferring of forces that occurs.  A teacher I am not!  The most difficult part was keeping the younger siblings from running off with all the toys.  They didn’t understand why they couldn’t play with them all.  😉

Rube Goldberg devices are fascinating to watch.  The physics behind the transference of forces without additional outside stimulation is so cool to see.  I think I’ve watched the one in the video above about 20 times.  Magnets are fascinating and to see them implemented like this is awesome.  The use of balls of different mass mixed with the magnets is so simple yet so clever.  I highly suggest clicking to this guys You Tube site and getting lost in the videos he’s posted.

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I Wasn’t a Feminist Until I Had Daughters

You would think as a advanced degree holding Mechanical Engineer I would also automatically be a card carrying feminist. Well it may be true now, but it wasn’t a few years ago.  Sure I chose a profession that was predominantly male but it was only because I always liked finding out how things worked.  Sure my classes in college (*cough* 20 year ago) were on average 15% female but the male students never treated me differently (ok there was flirting but hey it was college).  Sure, I still go to conferences or work with larger companies and I’m surrounded by mostly men.  BUT, I can’t say I ever felt strongly discriminated against.  The men have treated me like what I am, another engineer.

Now, working at a tiny company and not having to deal with hoards of male engineers and managers all day I can say that I’m lucky.  I know women who have had to deal with a lot of crap STILL in this industry so I’m not saying that discrimination isn’t out there, just that I haven’t had to deal with it.  Plus, I married a man who I feel truly thinks of me as his equal.  This meant that I could stay in my little bubble and not have to think about it.

Then I had daughters…

Having daughters changed everything.  Suddenly all the sexist things that I had ignored were a big deal.  The parade of pink useless toys down every “girl” toy aisle was appalling.  The movies marketed to my kids were full of anti-feminist messages.  I discovered a shortage in good STEM books that would appeal to and inspire young girls.  The older my daughters got, the more of an outspoken feminist I became (and the more my blog posts moved away from the fluffy kid stuff).  I knew to ignore the often subtle sexist messages but would my daughters?  Or would they grow up feeling just not quite as smart/strong/funny/equal to a man?

So I’m not actually a card carrying member of the ACLU but I am one of SWE (Society of Women Engineers) and I’ve started a Girl Scout troop (with my awesome husband) where we focus on more than crafts and fluffy stuff but throw in a lot of science and girl power lessons.

And most importantly, I tell my girls every day how smart and strong and clever and funny and wonderful they are.  They are our next generation of leaders and I want to see them excel.

I wasn’t a feminist before I had daughters, but now I would proudly shout it from the roof tops if it helps them to be successful both in their professional and (almost more importantly) personal lives.

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Filed under Engineering, Female Empowerment, Girl Scouts, Motherhood, parenthood, STEM

Fun STEM Books for Young Girls: Violet the Pilot

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen holds a special place in my heart because Violet is a Mechanical Engineer in the making. She tinkers and creates and fixes. She plays with monkey wrenches and over-engineers to the point of putting a lawn mower engine on her cousin’s tricycle.

Violet the Pilot

Violet dreams big and lets nothing stand in her way to realize her dreams (to fly in the air show with her handmade plane). On her way to the air show she gets side tracked by being awesome and caring.  This was fairly attractive to Rose as she got a kick out of the “hero” aspect of the story.   My detail oriented Evelyn liked the funny little things the author put in like the various household objects Violet uses for her inventions.

I like the lessons in this book. Dream big, work to achieve those dreams, and even with you hit some bumps in the road (like rescuing a bunch of Boy Scouts instead of flying in an air show) your still awesome. There’s a nice anti bullying message too. Well, less anti-bullying and more ‘don’t let the bullies dissuade you from your dreams’.  It could be used as a pure ‘live your dreams’ book but I love the engineering slant.

Rose and Evelyn give this one 4 thumbs up.

“Why I review” and a disclaimer:

This post is a continuation on my series of book reviews of children’s book which emphasize topics in the STEM field that would be interesting to young girls.  It started when I had difficulty finding STEM related children’s books that weren’t obviously written for boys.  Most had only male main characters or even only male characters period. My girls had a hard time identifying with them.  Thus, this blog series was born.  The opinions in these blogs are purely my own.  Well, really they are my girls opinions.  Either they like them or they wander off half way through the book.   We’ve read an ever growing number of these books and quite a few bore them or turn out to be subtly sexist (those “disappear”).

The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means I get a few pennies if you end up ordering the books.  These pennies are used for… more books. 🙂

For other STEM children’s books that are fun for young girls try these:

Rosie Rever, Engineer

Going Places

I am Amelia Earhart

Me… Jane

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Filed under book review, Engineering, STEM

Gifts for your mechanical engineering sweetheart

Every once in a while I run across things that catch my eye because they satisfy both my love of beauty and my inner geek.  Or they are just plain cool.  I figured I would share some of the better ones I’ve come across since there has to be people out there married to/dating/related to female engineers who could use a little extra help finding the perfect gift for valentines day, Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries.  And if my husband wants to use this list to help him out on our next anniversary it wouldn’t be a bad thing (hint hint honey).  A bunch of these are sold over at ThinkGeek.  If she at all is also a geek over Sify or Super Heros the choices are nearly endless.

1.  The Gear Necklace by Kenekt Design.  Not only is this pretty but the gears actually work.  You can pull the chain through the pendent and it turns the gears.  Sooo cool.  They also make a ring but it seems like it might be a little bulky on a woman’s finger.  And if they every reprint their flower/gear t-shirt, I am so buying one.

Gear Necklace

2.  Kinetic Gear Necklace.  For a little dressier necklace, this is beautiful.  I would imagine that it would go great at an upscale gathering.  The gears work on this too.  You can get the earrings as well but I’m not as sold on them.  They are not as intricate as the necklace.

Gear Necklace and Earrings

3.  Gear/Heart Necklace.  A less expensive but still pretty option.  The gears don’t move but it looks nice and you don’t have to break the bank but buy it.

Gear Necklace 1

4.  Da Vinci Catapult Kit or Desktop Trebuchet.  Moving on from pretty looking to pretty cool.  I’ve been coveting one of these for a while.  I keep thinking it would be a fun project to do with my daughters but I’m not sure if I would want to give up being the one to build the whole thing.  🙂

Small Wooden CatapultDesktop Trebuchet5.  Infinity Pi Scarf.  It’s a pretty infinity scarf (a circular scarf) with the 1st 80 digits of Pi on it.  Get it?  Pi has an infinite number of digits…..  Trust me.  She’ll get the joke.

htqk_infinite_pi_scarf_white

 

6.  Wooden Mechanical Wall Clock.  Not only is this clock cool to look at but she will get to build it herself.  She loves to casually say “Oh that? Yah, I built it.” just as much as you.  With this thing, she gets lots of bragging rights.  Although I can’t help thinking the hanging pendulum looks like it might end up a a cat toy so hang it high.

hshg_wooden_mechanical_clock

7.  Lego Mug.  It’s a mug you can build legos on.  Need I say more?

ee3c_build-on_brick_mug lego

Hopefully this helps you at least head in the right direction when it comes to choosing gifts for your mechanically minded friend/wife/lover.  If all else fails, buy her some Kinetic Sand (I have a bowl of it on my desk at work) but be warned she is going to want to explain to you at length why it acts the way it does.  🙂

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Fun STEM books for young girls: Me…Jane

Me Jane Book

This post I’m going to focus on a children’s book that promotes the Science part of STEM for girls.  Animal Science in particular.

Me…Jane is an adorable book.  It’s written by Patrick McDonald (who draws the comic strip Mutts) and gives a child sized biography of Jane Goodall.  The story follows Jane as she develops a love of the nature after getting a stuffed chimpanzee as a child.  This love followed her through her life and career as a scientist studying gorillas in the wild.  It’s a wonderful story that tells our young girls how a passion for nature can morph into a fascinating job.

It helped that the illustrations are so cute which kept my girls interest.  A big plus. They are drawn in the same style and easy to read prose as the Mutts cartoon.  If your girl loves animals, this is a great book to help her explore some of the possibilities in Animal Science.

I especially love this page as it encourages them to explore and learn.  We used it to explore with the girls how to learn more about topics that interest us.

Me Jane

“Why I review” and a disclaimer:

This post is a continuation on my series of book reviews of children’s book which emphasize topics in the STEM field that would be interesting to young girls.  It started when I had difficulty finding STEM related children’s books that weren’t obviously written for boys.  Most had only male main characters or even only male characters period. My girls had a hard time identifying with them.  Thus, this blog series was born.  The opinions in these blogs are purely my own.  Well, really they are my girls opinions.  Either they like them or they wander off half way through the book.   We’ve read an ever growing number of these books and quite a few bore them or turn out to be subtly sexist (those “disappear”).

The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means I get a few pennies if you end up ordering the books.  These pennies are used for… more books. 🙂

For other STEM children’s books that are fun for young girls try these:

Rosie Rever, Engineer

Going Places

I am Amelia Earhart

Violet the Pilot

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Filed under book review, Engineering, Female Empowerment, STEM

Live action Tinker Bell movie – will she be an engineer?

I heard very exciting news today.  Reese Witherspoon is making a live action version of Tinker Bell!  Yep, your favorite mechanical engineering fairy is coming to the big screen in her very own movie staring Reese Witherspoon.  That little blond ball of energy (Reese) will be perfect in the roll of a little blond ball of energy (Tinker Bell).  AND, I have high hopes that the movie is a female empowering version like I think Beauty and the Beast will be unlike Cinderella.

I just have one wish for the movie. PLEEEEEEEEASE let Tinker Bell be the awesomely cool engineer that she is in the cartoons.  Can you imagine the wonderful influence this movie could be on young girls?  It’s a slam dunk to show how fun engineering can be to a whole generation of girls.  There could be all sort of inventive and funny ways she could use her engineering brain to get herself out of scrapes and save the day.

As of this posting, the script is still “in development” so I’m sending this out into the great wide internet as a message of hope for all the young girls out there who love to figure out how things work.  Please give us a movie to love and be inspired by!

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Fun STEM Books for young Girls: I am Amelia Earhart

I found I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer at the library completely organically.  I was walking out of the children’s section with Me…Jane in my arms (that’s a separate blog post) and just happened to notice the name Amelia Earhart on the spine of a book at eye level.  Imagine my delight when I pulled it out and saw that it was a children’s book on the life of Amelia Earhart from her perspective as a child.  To put it mildly, this book is awesome.
wpid-20150101_184456.jpgSeriously, how can you not be inspired by that?  Rose thought the idea of having a parade thrown for you was pretty cool, I loved the words.

Awwww.  How can you not love this?
wpid-20150101_185638.jpg

I had fun explaining the engineering behind the roller coaster she built (way to reduce the friction with grease Amelia!).  I also expanded on the themes of her learning to fly with a discussion on the technology she needed to learn (simplified for a 5 year old of course).
wpid-20150101_185701.jpgRose was entertained by this book, a large part of which was the great illustrations that are very kid friendly.  It was great that Amelia was illustrated as a kid through the whole book.  I think it helped her identify with the character better.  More than having to imagine herself as an adult, Rose got to see the KID doing all this cool adult stuff.

2014 12 21_3056I would recommend this book for any adventurous girl you want to inspire or one that you want to inspire to be adventurous.  You never know where that adventure may lead.

“Why I review” and a disclaimer:

This post is a continuation on my series of book reviews of children’s book which emphasize topics in the STEM field that would be interesting to young girls.  It started when I had difficulty finding STEM related children’s books that weren’t obviously written for boys.  Most had only male main characters or even only male characters period. My girls had a hard time identifying with them.  Thus, this blog series was born.  The opinions in these blogs are purely my own.  Well, really they are my girls opinions.  Either they like them or they wander off half way through the book.   We’ve read an ever growing number of these books and quite a few bore them or turn out to be subtly sexist (those “disappear”).

The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means I get a few pennies if you end up ordering the books.  These pennies are used for… more books. 🙂

If some random link on the internet brought you to this post and you want to learn about other awesome STEM books for young girls that the girls and I love try these posts:

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Going Places

Me…Jane

Violet the Pilot

For a huge list of books to inspire, try the A Might Girl site.

Know of other STEM books that are age appropriate for the younger girls?  Let me know!  I’m always looking.

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Filed under book review, Engineering, Female Empowerment, STEM

A little more about me

I’ve always been curious to know more about what my fellow working moms do for a living so I thought I would expand a bit on the basics described in the About Me page.

What I do when I’m not home being mother/wife/horsewoman:

By trade and training I am a mechanical engineer. More specifically, I use rotor dynamic analysis to determine the potential for or source of existing vibration issues with machinery. In layperson’s terms, I determine why things that rotate (or have internal rotating parts) are shaking and figure out how to make it stop. 🙂

It’s been a rather interesting job over the years. I’ve studied machines that ranged from a reusable space launch vehicle to waste water treatment pumps.  There have been a few long time line projects but most are completed in a few weeks.  I have always like to have an immediate goal so this works well for me (I’m one of those people that takes pleasure in simple things like finishing the last of a jar of peanut butter.  Look I finished it!!  Now on to a new jar!)

I work in a small company.  Like it’s me and my boss and his wife (the office manager) small.  We have some off site people we contract with but I don’t interact with them on an every day basis.  This has it’s good points and bad points.  I’m an introvert so I relish the quiet.  However, it sucks sometimes not to have anyone to complain to about difficult customers or non working analysis.  It also doesn’t lend to making me get out of my comfort zone and socialize.  Thus I have been doing other things like rejoining SWE to make myself actually interact with others.

So there you have it.  That, in a nut shell, is my life for 70% of my waking hours every weekday.

My office reference book stash and engineering toys

20141016_111240

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Fun STEM books for young girls: Going Places

2014 10 08_2506_edited-1

To continue my review of books for young girls that encourage innovation, engineering, and science, this post reviews Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds.  At first, I almost passed this one by (it came up as a suggestion on Amazon) when I read that the main character was a boy (remember this is about empowering girls).  Luckily I read more carefully and saw that he teams up with a girl pretty quickly into the story.

Going Places follows a boy named Rafael who is very excited to build a go cart for his class’s go cart race.  He gets his kit and quickly builds his cart following every step of the instructions.  Proud of himself, he heads next door to see how his neighbor, Maya, is doing with her’s.  To his surprise, he watches as she uses the same material to build a birdlike airplane instead of a car.  Inspired by her creativity, they team up to combine their talents and build an airplane because as Maya says “The box doesn’t say it HAS to be a go cart”.  Of course, they go on to win the race and build many more fun inventions.

I didn’t buy this book (I found it at the library) but it has definitely made it to my wish list.  Rose loved it and was rather traumatized that she had to return it.

What I took away from this book is the fun and benefit of teamwork with innovation.  And not just working with a team, but being open to other people’s  ideas as a way to improve on yours.  Working with other people’s strengths to compliment your own.  And, when it comes to my daughter, not being too bossy and letting others work their ideas into the project as well.

If you do that, you might just invent something cool like a frog submarine.  🙂

2014 10 08_2507

“Why I review” and a disclaimer:

This post is a continuation on my series of book reviews of children’s book which emphasize topics in the STEM field that would be interesting to young girls.  It started when I had difficulty finding STEM related children’s books that weren’t obviously written for boys.  Most had only male main characters or even only male characters period. My girls had a hard time identifying with them.  Thus, this blog series was born.  The opinions in these blogs are purely my own.  Well, really they are my girls opinions.  Either they like them or they wander off half way through the book.   We’ve read an ever growing number of these books and quite a few bore them or turn out to be subtly sexist (those “disappear”).

The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means I get a few pennies if you end up ordering the books.  These pennies are used for… more books. 🙂

More STEM book reviews:

Rosie Revere, Engineer

I am Amelia Earhart

Me…Jane

Violet the Pilot

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Filed under book review, Engineering, STEM

Girls and Legos: Making it Work

You may remember in my Tinker Bell post that I expressed the desire for Tinker Bell themed Legos to encourage my daughter’s creativity.  Since Disney doesn’t seem to have read my post, I thought I would take matters into my own hands.  I found a little fairy* (and a mermaid for good measure) at Target and thought they would fit well to Rose’s creations.

The look on her face was priceless when I pulled them out last night when we went to build with her Legos.  Her imagination immediately went into overdrive and there was soon a lake for the mermaid and a flower garden for the fairy.

I think the smile on her face says it all.

Girls Lego Collection Barbie

It didn’t stop there.  Soon there was this.

Girls Lego Creation 2

And lots of this.  Best. Idea. Ever.

Girls Lego Creation

I can’t wait to see where her imagination takes her.  Time to encourage her to engineer some of the cool devices Tinker Bell creates in her movies.

*I tried to find the fairy and mermaid I bought but Amazon didn’t have the exact one.  This is the same thing but with a Princess, Fairy, Mermaid, and Unicorn. I wish I had seen this one!

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