Girls Have “No Limits” at Horace Mann’s WISE Workshops

Contributed by Katie Diaz

Ewy Rosqvist’s message of enthusiasm and unrelenting determination is one that can often be felt at Horace Mann’s WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) programs.  Since its inception in 2015, the WISE program at HM has been offering activities throughout the year on Saturday mornings, days off, and even summer camps.  Additionally, Close up of a matchbox car on a stack of wooden blocksthe WISE program exists at HM’s Upper Division, as our high school students teach after-school science and engineering to girls from local public schools, under the guidance of the program’s director, Katie Diaz.

As part of three recent STEAM workshops, girls from kindergarten through fifth grade were able to display that they have “no limits” using a model of Ewy’s car as the central element.

The workshop for kindergarten and first grade girls was held on Saturday, January 11, second and third grade was Saturday, February 22, and on Thursday, February 27, fourth and fifth grade girls has their opportunity to utilize models of Ewy’s Mercedes-Benz 220SE.  A total of about 180 girls took part in all three workshops, and each workshop had approximately six HM faculty teaching the girls.

The “No Limits” video was first on the agenda.  When asked what our WISE girls thought of Ewy, words like, “fierce” and “unstoppable” and “brave” were often shared.  Audible cheering was regularly heard when the girls learned that, Drawing of a road with two trees taped on a cardboard boxnot only was Ewy the first woman to compete, but she came in first, by a lot.  Highly motivated and energized, the girls were excited to begin work on their projects.

After watching the “No Limits” video, girls in kindergarten through third grade worked collaboratively to plan and construct race tracks for Ewy’s car.  The girls learned about simple machines, friction, and basic physics as part of this project; some even incorporated magnets into their work to move the car through the track with greater ease. In addition to the science/engineering component, many of the girls displayed their artistic talents, incorporating road signs, parking spaces, and banners into their tracks, often with signs like “Girl Power Highway” or “Ewy’s Parking Space.” Ramps made from cardboard or pool noodles were common place, and colorful, masking tape tracks were often used as well.

Every WISE program at HM includes a snack based on the day’s theme,Rice krispy treat car with oreo wheels and a teddy graham driver and the “No Limits” workshop was no different.  Using Rice Krispies treats, icing, and mini Oreos, the girls constructed a model car, complete with a Teddy Graham driver. The girls happily ate their creations and were excited to have snack as a direct extension of the morning’s activity.

The kindergarten through third grade programs lasted three hours, but the girls would have happily worked on their tracks for much longer.  Each girl took home her own car at the end of the workshop, as they enthusiastically shared their morning’s work with their parents/caregivers upon pick up.

The fourth and fifth grade girls’ project looked a little different, as they took part in a six-hour workshop on a day off from school (it was parent-teacher conference day).  The older girls learned about the artist/engineer Rube Goldberg at a previous WISE workshop.  Known for overcomplicated methods of carrying out a simple, every day task, Rube’s art, engineering style, and humor resonated with the girls.  They decided that they wanted to build a contraption that would culminate with one cup pouring something into another cup. And, of course, a track for Ewy’s Mercedes-Benz 220SE would be part of the process.

On Thursday February 27, the girls planned and constructed their devices. Within their device, girls included a track for their Mercedes-Benz 220SE, and the car became one of the steps within the process of carrying out that simple, every day task. 

Much like the younger students, the fourth and fifth graders utilized and tested their knowledge of physics, matchbox track made of cardboard, paper, and dominosmagnetism, friction, and simple machines.  However, the challenging task a constructing a Rube Goldberg device added another element from which the girls were able to draw inspiration from Ewy; perseverance.

The track for the Mercedes-Benz 220SE, was one step in their Rube Goldberg machines, but successfully connecting all components can be a frustrating and difficult task, requiring a great deal of trial and error.  The machine fails over and over again before it works.  Disagreements arise as girls share opposing solutions to remedy the situation and patience is often tested.  However, Ewy’s message of not giving up, even when things feel impossible, is one that the girls successfully employed while working on this task.

Ewy’s story and the model 220SE provided the WISE students an opportunity to problem solve effectively, work collaboratively, and persevere through challenging activities.  They engineered, explored, hypothesized, observed, and created, all while enjoying one another’s’ company.  Much like Ewy, these workshops provided the girls a chance to demonstrate that they are unstoppable and brave and capable of doing amazing things.

Headshot of a blonde woman wearing a gray sweater


Katie Diaz is the Lower Division Science Specialist, WISE Program Director, and Sustainability Coordinator at Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY. Katie is also a member of the National Science Teachers Association.


NGCP's partnership with Mercedes-Benz USA is tackling the issue of gender stereotypes and showing young girls they can aspire to be and do anything they desire. #GirlsHaveNoLimits. Via NGCP mini-grants, thousands of girls have been gifted a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist's historic 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix performance. Learn more about this initiative.