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07 March 2012
The Welsh Government’s Equalities Minister joined 30 budding female engineers as they took on scientific challenges at the University’s School of Engineering to mark International Women’s Day.
Thirty Year 9 girls from secondary schools from across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan gathered at the School to attempt to build wind turbines from scratch.
The workshop is part of a programme at the Discover! Saturday Club - a science-based activity club designed to offer girls a hands-on insight into careers relating to science, technology, construction and engineering.
Now in its sixth week (of eight), so far the girls have taken part in activities that have given them an insight into biosciences, architecture, astronomy, energy conservation and solar power, and medical engineering.
The Minister for Finance and Equalities, Jane Hutt, said: "I was looking forward to the challenge of the Discover! Saturday Club, and of course meeting these enthusiastic young women who are spending their free time learning about the industries so often dominated by men.
"The Welsh Government is working on the under representation of women in positions of authority, and continues to challenge gender stereotypes. This programme is very important as it does exactly that, while inspiring and encouraging our Welsh pioneering women of the future.
"I am proud to say that this is a "made in Wales" programme that has no equivalent anywhere else in the UK.
"International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world this Thursday (March 8) and it marks women and girls coming together to highlight issues, but also to celebrate achievements. That is why I think the visit is perfectly timed to congratulate the club members on their achievements and wish them well for pursuing future careers in this area."
Each week the sessions are supported by female scientists and engineers and other role-models.
Professor Karen Holford who is head of the School of Engineering, and also won the Women into Science, Engineering and Construction Excellence Award in 2007 for personal contribution to engineering and a long-term commitment to supporting girls and young women in science and engineering, said: "These are a great way to help dispel gender stereotypes around subjects such as engineering. The aim of this event is to challenge and inspire girls who may not have considered moving into these fields."
Last month Dr Hayley Gomez from the School of Physics and Astronomy took part in Discover! Saturday Club. Along with Dr Edward Gomez, she ran activities based on "Seeing the Universe in a different light". This included demonstrations on how the Universe would look if our eyes were sensitive to infrared light as well as learning about how exploding stars and entire galaxies containing trillions of stars like our Sun, which would be unrecognizable if our eyes adapted to see infrared or X-rays or indeed radio waves.
The students also found out how we can detect the extremely faint signature of a planet orbiting a star thousands of light years away using only a laptop, a lamp (for the star) and plasticine balls of different sizes to represent the planets. With this simple kit, the students saw the effect of changing the size of the planet on the shape of a resulting light curve, and learnt we know if a planet is similar in size to the Earth or more like Jupiter.
Saturday Clubs have long been an important element of the various projects run by the Education Business Partnership (EBP) of Careers Wales Cardiff and Vale. This scheme has been rolled out throughout Wales and now all six Careers Wales regions offer the opportunities created by the Discover! Clubs.
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