Kala Gilliam studied her evolving creation made from popsicle sticks and tape.
The 15-year-old York Junior High eighth-grader added more sticks, then rubber bands, then a pencil.
After a few minutes, the eclectic ingredients, combined in just the right way, produced a working catapult that shot pieces of candy clear across a room at York Technical College.
Gilliam was now an engineer. Or at the least, she got a taste of engineering, a field York Tech hopes will pique the interest of more girls after centuries of being dominated by males. That was the idea behind the "Introducing Girls to Engineering" workshop Saturday at York Tech, which gave sixth- through ninth-grade girls a chance to see all the engineering field has to offer.
"I just wanted to see what it was like and if I'd be interested," said Gilliam, moments after nabbing a second-place ribbon for her catapult. "This is kind of fun."
More than 59 girls registered for the event, which included hands-on activities such as building a mini-rollercoaster to learn the principles of potential and kinetic energy, popsicle-stick bridges to learn about compression and tension, and, yes, those catapults that showed how science and math are used to make things launch farther.
The number of women engineers is small compared with other fields. Only around 20 percent of engineers are women, and only 10 percent of engineering students nationwide are women, said Cree Stout, department manager for electronics and computer engineering technology at York Tech.
The stigma of the field as a males-only world has played a large role in women not even considering a career in engineering, Stout said.
"They don't know what's out there and what they can do," said Stout, who was the only female engineer working in education in South Carolina when she came to York Tech in 1983. "They've been told they can't do it. You don't have to be a whiz at anything as long as you have the desire."
Some girls who tried engineering Saturday said they were surprised to learn it could be fun.
"I thought we were going to come here and do work," said Adriane Garvin, 14, a York Junior High student. "Not fun work."
Dariane Marino, 13, also a student at York Junior High, said most girls tend to associate engineering with traditionally masculine work.
"When you hear 'engineering,' a lot of girls think building and fixing stuff," she said. "I didn't know we would do the stuff we did today."
But after Saturday, those perspectives have changed.
"It's pretty cool, actually," said Gracen Barnes, 12, a seventh-grader at St. Anne Catholic School in Rock Hill, who made a bottle lamp during the workshop and learned how electrical circuits work.
Gracen said she's more interested in engineering now than she was before Saturday.
"Just go out there and try it, and you never know," she said. "There's a lot of variety, so anyone can find something they like."
That's just the message Stout hopes to get out.
"For these girls to even get a taste of what engineering can be," she said, "I think it's working wonders."