More than 80 girls in grades 3 through 5 from Greater Lawrence area schools participated in the "Introduce a Girl to Engineering" event Monday morning.

In the gymnasium of Greater Lawrence Technical School, 10 teams of girls were tasked with purchasing items to build bridges that could sustain heavy weight.

Each group was given $100 and had to budget and purchase materials such as duct tape, popsicle sticks, straws, cardboard, paper clips and more. They created lists of wanted items before heading to the table to purchase them.

After the bridges were constructed, judges determined how much weight each one could sustain by adding weights into a bucket that hung from the center of the bridge. Weight was added until the bridge collapsed.

The event, initiated by Columbia Gas, was the first one to be held in Massachusetts in an effort to repair ties with the Merrimack Valley communities following the disasters of Sept. 13.

"We want to engage with the community to a much greater degree in the future than in the past," said Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. He added that the utility is using the Merrimack Valley as their "proving grounds" to bring new ideas to the state, like Monday's event.

Kempic also said the goal of the event was to spark the idea in girls that STEM related fields - science, technology, engineering and math - are not just geared toward men, despite the high statistics of men that hold positions in those areas.

Sydney Klein, 9, a student at High Plain Elementary School, said her favorite part of the day was the engineering aspect.

"It's really fun and stuff, and I'm interested in technology," she said.

Marisa Aarons, 9, of Atkinson Elementary School in North Andover, said it was interesting to see which materials worked best to construct their bridges. She said GLTS was an "amazing place" she hoped to return to in the future.

Some 16 engineering students from GLTS assisted Columbia Gas leaders and employees to run the event.

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