GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Bella Maschio stood on the balcony overlooking the Grand Hall at Stockton University’s Campus Center holding out a carefully wrapped, uncooked egg. Then she dropped it.
Below, her teammate Dayanara Torres waited, eyes wide. The egg landed with a thud, but ultimately unscathed, to the girls’ delight.
Bella, 13, from the Margaret Mace School in North Wildwood, and Dayanara, 12, of the Pennsylvania Avenue School in Atlantic City, were taking part in Stockton’s annual Tween Tech program, open to more than 200 young girls from all over South Jersey interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
Tween Tech is hosted in partnership with the local chapters of the American Association of University Women and the college’s School of Education.
“It’s fun,” Dayanara said. “We get to experience it instead of watching it.”
Dayanara said she hopes to become a radiologist or neonatal nurse when she is older. Bella hopes to become a marine biologist or a chemist, she said.
The girls agreed it was important to have the chance to take part in the Tween Tech event, which is one of two one-day events the AAUW sponsors each year in addition to the annual weeklong summer program called Tech Trek for middle school girls.
“Their mission statement is to support girls and women,” said AAUW member Ann Marchesani, who runs Tech Trek and volunteers for Tween Tech.
Marchesani, a former teacher at Williamstown Middle School, said there are so few women in STEM-related fields and the events targeting young girls will encourage them to take interest in those careers.
All of Friday’s presenters were women who either taught the subject matter or were working in the field.
“We’re showing them good role models,” Marchesani said.
Jackie McGuiness, AAUW member and teacher at Burlington County Institute of Technology, led the “Save the Egg Challenge” on Friday.
“They’re building containers to drop Humpty over the wall so he doesn’t crack,” she explained. “This is engineering design. They have a problem, they have to brainstorm, they have to solve it.”
Nishat Tabassum, 12, from the Texas Avenue School in Atlantic City, said she was impressed the activities were hands-on and not just lectures.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn something,” Tabassum said in between cutting strings and gluing straws to a cup that would hold her team’s egg. “It seems pretty fun.”
Other workshops Friday included photo editing, making an electronic badge, designing computer games, creating lasers, making lip gloss and exploring the chemistry of cooking.
Participating school districts included Atlantic City, Bishop McHugh, Egg Harbor Township, Evesham Township, Hamilton Township, Linwood, Maple Shade, Medford Township, Monroe Township, North Wildwood, Southern Regional and Tabernacle.