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Salina: Lockheed Martin holds Women in Engineering Day

The hallways in Building EP-5 of the Lockheed Martin complex in Salina were permeated by a strange smell on Friday afternoon. It wasn't a new defense project, nor was it a lunchroom accident. No, it was part of an experiment to demonstrate how electricity works.

Two Lockheed engineers were electrocuting a pickle.

The demonstration was part of the company's sixth annual Women in Engineering Day, in which girls from area high schools come to learn more about math and science and the various fields of engineering in the hopes that they will pursue the fields further in the future.

The pickle experiment demonstrated how electricity works.

"It's because of the sodium in the pickle," said Pascal Youn. "The sodium ionizes, meaning that the sodium molecules are charged and start to jump all around. As they come back down, the pickle emits light and makes a buzzing sound. That's the frequency."

But why a pickle?

"It's a lot cooler to use a pickle than a light bulb in a box or something," Young said.

That was the goal of the event, held from 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Friday Nov. 3 -- to find new ways to interest young women in engineering careers.

"It's a great event," said Kate Thomas, a software engineer at Lockheed. "When I was their age, I didn't even know what an engineer was. But they get to come and see demonstrations from people who are tops in their fields."

This year's event, which hosted a record-high 64 girls from 28 area high schools, was chaired by Kristen Walker, a 1998 Liverpool High School graduate. She has chaired the event for the last four years.

"It started six years ago when another engineer saw a need," Walker said. "It started a lot smaller -- just 10 or 15 schools."

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