Monday, July 18, 2011

Engineering in Fashion for Opening Day at the Races

With the help of inspiring mentors and a six-week engineering workshop at the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), about two dozen girls from across San Diego are making race-inspired hats driven by gears and electronics for Opening Day at the Del Mar Race Track.

“The whole experience is designed to expose the girls to what an engineer does, in a fun and engaging way,” said Saura Naderi, director of Calit2’s MyLab @ Variability Expedition. Naderi, who earned a bachelor’s in engineering physics from UC San Diego in 2007, was inspired to create a workshop for girls to make their own mechanized hats after debuting one of her own creations at Opening Day last year.

The MyLab program at Calit2 launched in 2009 with the goal of bringing hands-on science and engineering experiences to the local community through outreach projects that typically blend art and technology. Ranging in age from 7 to 16, the girls are participating in the Girl’s Hat Day program, which is funded by a $15,000 grant from ViaSat (a producer of satellite and other digital communications). The girls are mentored by a dozen mostly women engineers from UCSD, ViaSat, Qualcomm and SPAWAR.

Saura Naderi, director of MyLab @ Variability Expedition's outreach program, discusses Girl's Hat Day project.

Naderi collaborated with Town and Country Village Learning Center to recruit many of the girls for the program, which will teach them the basics of electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering.

This year, 40,000 race fans are expected to attend Opening Day at Del Mar. Spectators have sported creative, glamorous hats since the race’s first Opening Day in 1937, and the more fashion-minded spectators participate in the ‘One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest’. The Girl’s Hat Day girls, wearing matching blue dresses, will enter their hats in the ‘Funniest or Most Outrageous’ category.

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