EngineerGirl @ Expanding Your Horizons Annual Conference

#EngineerGirlShow highlights amazing women in engineering to inspire the next generation. This series was produced by George Retelas with his digital art students at SAE Institute

Watch interviews with guest speakers Liz Buzzard, Monya Lane, Lydia Tai, and Elizabeth Wheeler from the Tri-Valley Expanding Your Horizons annual conference at Las Positas College in Livermore, California.

Interview Transcript

We're at Las Positas College…
For the 37th Annual…
Tri-Valley Expanding Your Horizons Conference…For Girls!

Hi I'm Holly and I am an eighth grader in middle school and I love math and science. I would like to ask you a few questions about your job if that’s alright.

Monya Lane (ML): Sure, I’d be happy to.

So what’s the goal that you’re trying to accomplish through Expanding Your Horizons?

ML: Expanding Your Horizons, as you see today, there is an overwhelming response to the opportunity to have girls come together and understand what their opportunities are. We need to encourage more and more of that in the schools and in programs like these so that you all know what those opportunities are and you have a path to get where you want to go.

What got you interested in engineering?

ML: I think I was a lot like you when I was in eighth grade. I really liked math and science. As I went through high school I kept taking those math classes and I was looking for something that was versatile and had a math and science aspect. You know I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do for a career. Mechanical engineering was something where I could have a wide variety of choices but it really had that math and science aspect to it that I liked so much.

Who inspired you along the way?

ML: I think I'll give you one example and that has to do with Expanding Your Horizons conference. Back in 1985 I ended up being the chair of this conference we had Sally Ride as the keynote speaker that year for Expanding Your Horizons. There is no question that she has inspired me.

What do you do a packaging engineer?

Liz Buzzard (LB): I work to design packages for the product. So I'll work on a project for maybe like a year and then it will actually be at the store shelf, so I can point to something. So maybe I'm over at my friend's house and I see they've purchased one of my products that I worked on, and it's just a really good feeling to know that you're having such an impact on people's lives, making stuff that really matters to them.

So, the point of this activity is to retrieve the egg without breaking it, and the point of this is using limited materials to somehow create a device to pick it up.


Lydia Tai (LT): So what I do is I work in radiation protection and I help make sure that scientists and engineers who are working with radioactive materials are kept safe from what they're working with.

So what’s the difference between alpha, beta, and gamma rays?

LT: There are different ways that a nucleus has of releasing its extra energy. That's what makes something radioactive, is when the nucleus has too much energy and needs to release some of it to relax to its ground state, kind of like in chemistry. And so an alpha particle is two protons and two neutrons, except it has no electrons. So it's a positively charged, kind of large particle that’s given off. A beta particle is actually like an electron with a lot of energy that can get kicked out of the radioactive atom. And then a gamma ray is when a nucleus is kind of like in an excited state and it gives off the energy by relaxing and releasing extra energy through a wave, a radioactive wave.

Oh, so it’s just [waving hand gesture].

LT: [laughs] Exactly. Different materials, just depending on their own properties, they give off those different kinds of radioactivity.

Well thank you for talking with me today.

LT: You’re welcome.

What's wrong your favorite projects that you've worked on?

Elizabeth Wheeler (EW): One of my favorite ones was when we got to go to the Pentagon and spray powdered sugar all over it, so that was a lot of fun.

What was the point in that project?

EW: The point of that one is to see how the air travels within the building and using some DNA tracks technology that was developed at the lab that we could track where the particles went.

So what got you into this job?

EW: One of the interesting things that got me into it was actually when I was a kid, when I was a seventh grader, I attended one of these Expanding Your Horizons conferences. I remember it pretty vividly. Sally Ride was a guest speaker that year. And being there and seeing all the different women in engineering willing to take their time out of their weekend to show me these different fields made me realize that, you know, the physicist or the chemist wasn’t just the, you know, wearing the lab coat with the science goggles and pocket protector. Trying to get away from that stereotype. It make me think “well wait, maybe I could do this.” And I also remember Sally Ride saying if we sent an addressed envelope to her she’d send a picture back to us, an autographed picture. And that made a big impact on me as a kid that someone would be willing to do that. I think the picture’s still at my parents’ attic, but… [laughs] They might find out about that, yeah.