When the Girls Have No Limits project came to Girl Day at UT Austin, we anticipated reaching 8,000 elementary and middle school girls with the story of Ewy Rosqvist and a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating her historic Argentinian Grand Prix performance on November 4, 1962. What we did not plan on was the impact on our current UT Austin engineering students who volunteered at Girl Day and those who participated in a Women’s History Month Celebration a couple weeks later. The “No Limits” message resonates deeply with girls of all ages.
Girl Day at UT Austin
Girl Day at UT Austin, including Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and the Girl Day STEM Festival, is held annually during Engineers Week by the UT Austin Women in Engineering Program. Girl Day gives over 8,000 elementary and middle school students a chance to explore STEM through grade-appropriate, hands-on activities hosted by over 1,700 volunteer scientists, engineers, and STEM enthusiasts from over 160 student organizations, research centers, corporate partners, and community organizations.
That’s for Boys, Not for Girls. Says Who?
Adding the Girls Have No Limits project into Girl Day at UT Austin was a great way to spread the empowering message of not letting stereotypes and doubters stopping you from “finishing first” and doing what you want to do. In collaboration with Mercedes-Benz USA, we incorporated three “Mercedes-Benz No Limits: That’s for Boys, Not for Girls. Says Who?” shows into the schedule reaching nearly 600 students, parents, and educators. During the thirty-minute show, students heard the empowering story, watched the video about stereotypes and Ewy Rosqvist’s historic performance, and were given the Matchbox replica cars as a reminder of the message.
Cars in Real Life
Imagination runs wild when you can step into an actual car, pretend to drive, play with the controls, and look out the windshield and envision your future. Both Mercedes-Benz USA and the UT Austin Longhorn Racing Team had real cars at the event for girls to get in, pretend, and let their imagination take them on an adventure. The smiles were wide as the girls sat in the driver seat, took hold of the wheel, and envisioned their journey. You could see the wheels turning in their minds as they thought about the possibilities and considered their future where they could drive and determine where they will go. It was easy believe that the smiles were wide as the girls considered their “no limits” future when they would be in control of driving.
No Limits for the Longhorn Racing Team
The UT Austin Longhorn Racing Team is a student chapter of The Society of Automotive Engineers located at The University of Texas. They are a cooperative student organization comprised of three Collegiate Design Series Teams that provide members with the opportunity to explore different engineering fields and grow their tangible skills through a collaborative and innovative environment. When asked if they wanted to join in on the Girls Have No Limits project at Girl Day, they jumped at the opportunity. Their members Googled the project, watched the No Limits videos, and were inspired by the story of Ewy Rosqvist. They could make the connection between their organization’s work and their demonstrations and cars at Girl Day and the impact of the No Limits campaign. They handed out over 4,000 Matchbox replica cars throughout Girl Day.
Beyond Girl Day: No Limits at a Women’s History Month Celebration
With some die-cast Matchbox replicas of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist’s historic Argentinian Grand Prix performance remaining, we looked forward to other opportunities to spread the inspirational “No Limits” message to others. A couple weeks after Girl Day at UT Austin, the Women in Engineering Program and several women and STEM focused student organizations hosted the “Women’s History Month Celebration: A Night for Women in STEM”. Nearly 200 undergraduate STEM students, graduate STEM students, and STEM role models from academia and industry joined in an evening celebration to counter stereotypes, share experiences, embrace failure and persistence, and learn from one another. Each participant was given the Matchbox replica and the story of Ewy Rosqvist and her quote, “They said I could never finish, so I finished first.” was shared. Participants were told about the campaign and encouraged to go watch the No Limits videos. The story and links to the No Limits campaign and videos were shared in follow-up communications to participants so they could further explore on their own and hopefully continue to be inspired themselves and to inspire others.
While it is often hard to understand the impact of these projects, sometimes we get a glimpse. I saw a social media post from one of our undergraduate engineering students a few days after our Women’s History Month Event on International Women’s Day (March 8). She had participated in the event, heard the Ewy Rosqvist story, and took a car home after the event. In her social media post, she shared the Ewy Rosqvist quote and a photo with the Matchbox replica car. On the surface, it may not seem like much, but this is a student who has struggled…and yet persisted. She had so many life circumstances going against her and yet she is graduating this May and has a great engineering job awaiting her. Despite all the odds, she finished. And she is celebrating and feels like she is finishing first. This was the quote and the post she shared — it meant something to her and it stuck with her. She is living the “no limits” story.
No Limits on the Impact
While the “No Limits” campaign was designed for younger girls, the impact on girls (women) of all ages is evident. The story of Ewy Rosqvist and her quote “They said I could never finish, so I finished first.” resonate with all ages and provide inspiration to push on, press through, and persevere. The Women in Engineering Program at UT Austin is thankful to have been a part of the Girls Have No Limits project and thrilled to have inspired thousands of elementary and middle school girls in addition to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate college students with its message.
Named one of 100 Women Leaders in STEM by STEMconnector, Tricia Berry leads efforts to advance gender equity in STEM fields. As Collaborative Lead for the Texas Girls Collaborative Project, she leads dissemination of STEM resources across Texas in coordination with the National Girls Collaborative Project. She concurrently serves as Women in Engineering Program Director at The University of Texas at Austin, leading efforts to recruit and graduate women in the Cockrell School of Engineering.