Rebecca Bernard
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Ohio Girl Scouts Become Master Mechanics at Sinclair Community College

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Girl Scouts of Western Ohio Master Mechanic
Photo: The News Wheel/Girl Scouts of Western Ohio

One of the most persistent stereotypes about women is that we don’t know much about cars. This month, the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio and Sinclair Community College teamed up to present the Master Mechanic program to help dispel the myth and teach young drivers more about the automotive world. I tagged along for the day to watch the scouts in action.*

The day-long program took place in Sinclair’s Automotive Technology workshops and was facilitated by professors Ralph Miller and Troy Singleton. This was the second time the two groups worked together for Master Mechanic. It focused on things all owners should know about their vehicles as well as bigger concepts like fuel economy and self-driving cars. This program and others from the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio council are part of the movement’s emphasis on providing new experiences that grow practical and valuable life skills.

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After a tour of the building to start everything off, we arrived in the large mechanic shop full of cars on lifts. Each girl received an inspection checklist and instructors told them to examine the listed parts of the car like a mechanic would. At first, the participants were unsure about how to approach the vehicles. Once they got reassurances they could actually touch the vehicles, it was like a dam broke. The girls did everything from honking horns, measuring fluid levels, and checking the drivetrain for damage with the guidance of Sinclair staff.

One of the most memorable parts of the program was when I was with a pair of girls learning about the underside of a car. They observed a wet component and asked if it should look like that. It turns out that they discovered a leak in a car’s brake line. When the instructor asked how they noticed, one girl proudly announced that something wet dropped on her head during their inspection. Instead of getting upset about it, the participant spent the rest of the morning bragging to her friends about the brake fluid in her hair.

Girl Scouts of Western Ohio Master Mechanic
This is when they discovered the leak
Photo: The News Wheel/Girl Scouts of Western Ohio

The other half of the morning was spent watching an instructor change a tire and then the scouts doing it themselves. By the end of the exercise, the girls were able to safely jack up the cars and add the spare with minimal adult interference. They even raced to see who could do it the fastest at one point.

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In the afternoon, we watched instructors jump a battery and found fuel efficiency numbers to calculate how much money in gas a car used in a year. Finally, we heard a presentation about self-driving cars and the six levels of autonomy. Sinclair Community College received a grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase three vehicles with level two autonomy or above, so instructors were able to take all of us for rides to experience collision avoidance systems and automatic parking systems.

I have to say, while I knew that the car was designed to brake before we hit the padded cutout in the shape of another vehicle, it stopped much later than I thought it would. There was always a split second where I was worried we would actually slam into the obstacle.

The event was a lot of fun, and I think the girls learned a lot. Program staff says that there are plans to offer Master Mechanics in the new year.

*Full disclosure: I’m a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts and frequently volunteer at their programs.