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Girls' engineering day big hit with York County schools

When a local engineer decided to organize an all-girls event for middle and high school students, she didn't imagine it would grow as much as it did.

Christine McCollough, of Paragon Engineering Services in Spring Garden Township, spearheaded the idea to promote engineering among girls and, in one year, the number of students jumped from 12 to about 80.

York County students from West York Area, Dover Area, Red Lion Area, Dallastown Area, Eastern York, York City school districts and York Catholic High School were among attendees Thursday.

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"We have been working together to create this and make something much bigger," said Brandy Shope, of engineering firm Buchart Horn, and a West York school board member.

Thursday's "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day," included a speed networking event with local women engineers and a science, technology, engineering and math activity in which students built towers with marshmallows, spaghetti and tape.

Dallastown sophomore Jessica Coulson, 16, does her part as more than 75 students from nine York County schools participate in the STEM challenge activity during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Buchart Horn Inc. in York City, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Next year, organizers hope to add a day for elementary school students.

"It was actually really fun," said West York seventh grader Reagan Doll, 12, who said she came with an open mind and is now interested in learning more about environmental, civil and mechanical engineering. 

Just 13% of engineers in the U.S. are women, up from 11% last year, said Sherry Wolfe, of Buchart Horn. Wolfe remembers when it was closer to 2% in the 1980s, she said.

"Every job that we do here impacts the community in some aspect," she said. "I don’t think a lot of girls realize that."