Florencia Ruiz at Xavier

ASU mechanical engineering senior Florencia Ruiz talks with a young student recently at Xavier College Preparatory school in Phoenix. She was there to participate in an event to encourage girls’ interest in engineering, science and technology. Photo: Joseph Bering

Arizona State University senior Florencia Ruiz recently returned to her high school alma mater in the role of an engineering and science ambassador.

Ruiz is a mechanical engineering major in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering who graduated from Xavier College Preparatory school in Phoenix in 2009.

She joined a robotics team during her high school years and now mentors a team of teens that participates in robotics competitions.

She brought one of the team’s robots to Xavier’s annual Girls Have IT Day (IT for “information technology”), where about 500 girls from local middle schools were hosted by Xavier students – and some professional engineers – for a day of hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math activities.

Ruiz and her team set up a robotics demonstration booth that allowed the girls to make the robot shoot basketballs. They could also ask the robot questions about how it operated.

“They always got excited learning that they could control the robot, even if it was just to pick up and shoot balls,” she says.

Ruiz also visited other demonstration booths at Girls Have IT Day and talked to young students and some of their parents about the learning experiences and fun of joining a robotics team.

“Our data and assessments are showing that Girls Have IT Day is working,” says Catherine Wyman, Xavier’s Technology Program director. About 80 percent of the middle school students who attended responded positively when asked if their experience at the event piqued their interest in studying science, technology, engineering, art or math in college.

Wyman says she’s hoping to interest more ASU engineering students in the experience of participating in Girls Have IT Day next year.

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