University of Texas at Austin


Exploring the Arctic: STEM Girl Day 2024

By Rebecca Riley

Published March 10, 2024

Research Associate Helen Pillar helps two participants explore the concept of buoyancy.

Students flocked The University of Texas at Austin campus on February 24 for STEM Girl Day, marking a day of discovery and exploration as young minds delved into the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The event aims to ignite curiosity and passion for STEM among kindergartners - 8th grade students through engaging activities and hands-on experiments hosted by scientists, engineers, astronomers, mathematicians and other STEM enthusiasts from student organizations, and research centers.

"We’re here because we wanna learn more about science," expressed Sasha, an eager participant attending the event with her little sister. Their sentiment resonated with the overarching spirit of STEM Girl Day – a thirst for knowledge and exploration.

The campus buzzed with excitement as budding scientists, engineers, and mathematicians immersed themselves in a world of discovery. The Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences’s Computational Research in Ice and Ocean Systems Group (CRIOS) contributed to the activities with a lineup of captivating activities designed to unveil the mysteries of the ocean and climate systems. Matthew Goldberg, a Graduate Research Assistant at CRIOS, remarked on the enthusiasm of the young participants. "The kids are into it. We have a nice range of activities for everyone," Goldberg said, emphasizing the event’s focus on engaging kids of all ages.

One of the highlights was the exploration of ice melt in the ocean, a hands-on activity facilitated by the CRIOS team. Participants were invited to observe the effects of saltwater density on the melting of ice cubes dyed in vivid colors. By adding salt to tap water and submerging colored ice cubes, children witnessed firsthand the dynamic interplay between ocean salinity and ice melt – a tangible representation of complex climatic processes.


Graduate Research Assistant Matthew Goldberg teaches a group of students about ocean salinity and ice melt.

Another engaging activity centered on the concept of buoyancy and floating objects in the ocean. Through the careful arrangement of foam, wood, and metal balls on skewers, participants explored the principles of buoyancy and observed the factors influencing an object's ability to float or sink in water. This interactive experiment provided a glimpse into the physics governing oceanic dynamics, sparking curiosity and inquiry among young minds.

In addition to hands-on experiments, attendees had the chance to express their creativity by coloring ocean landscapes. This gave the youngest children a fun activity while their big siblings conducted experiments. 

Attendees also had the chance to delve into the realm of scientific visualization through a captivating presentation showcasing oceanic phenomena and measurement techniques. Utilizing advanced projection technologies, participants were transported into the depths of the ocean, gaining insights into the intricate interconnectedness of ice, water, and climate systems.


Senior Research Scientist An Nguyen admires a student's coloring page.

Esther, a mother accompanying her daughter on a class field trip, marveled at the level of engagement exhibited by the young participants. "They’re having a lot of fun! I’m actually shocked at how engaged they are," she said, echoing the sentiments of many parents witnessing their children's enthusiasm.

As participants immersed themselves in a myriad of STEM activities, they not only gained knowledge but also cultivated a sense of empowerment and curiosity essential for future scientific endeavors. As the day drew to a close with a spirited STEM Girl Day Pep Rally, the echoes of excitement and inspiration reverberated throughout the Forty Acres.

For more information about the program, which is open to all genders, follow this link. The 2024 STEM Girl Day at UT Austin hosted over 17,000 students, parents, and educators. It incorporates the international event Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (Girl Day) celebrated during Engineers Week each year.

STEM Girl Day at UT Austin is followed by celebrations including March 1st Texas Girls in STEM Day, March 4th World Engineering Day, Women's History Month throughout the month of March.