When Bryden Giesen, 7, of Duluth, climbed up into the driver's seat of a semi truck, a look of glee spread across her face. Her feet may have not been able to even graze the pedals, but she had the easy confidence of an old-timer.
On Thursday, the University of Wisconsin-Superior hosted 20 Girl Scouts to learn about the transportation industry, and encourage them to consider careers in the typically male-dominated field. The girls traveled around the Twin Ports, observing first-hand five modes of transportation: shipping, pipelines, rail, trucking and aviation.
"There's this perception that the transportation industry is for males," said Cassie Roemhildt, research associate at UWS. "We want to teach young girls that that isn't the case, so we got involved with the Girl Scouts."
Ellen Voie founded the Women in Trucking Association in 2007, and currently serves as the organization's president.
"There aren't a lot of role models for young women looking into transportation," Voie said. "There isn't a truck driver Barbie yet, but I'm working on it."
In 2014, Voie and the Women in Trucking organization worked with the Girl Scouts of America to create a Transportation patch.
"The Boy Scouts had a Truck Transportation merit badge, so I worked with our board of directors to create a Transportation patch for Girl Scouts," Voie said. "Eighty-four inner-city girls from Chicago got to learn about designing and driving trucks."
Roemhildt is the mother of two Girl Scouts, and when she heard about the new patch, she contacted Voie.
"We had our pilot program last year and there was a lot of enthusiasm," Roemhildt said. "Half the girls this year are returners."
The girls started their day with a conversation with Voie, in her capacity as a female truck driver and pilot.
"We want to introduce these opportunities before girls make their career decisions," Voie said. "Otherwise, women don't tend to think of themselves in a truck."
They then boarded the retired freighter William A. Irvin for a tour and conversation about the shipping industry. Emily Schaefer, 11, and Kenya Gomez, 10, were in awe of a massive chain.
"Each chain link weighs 40 pounds," Schaefer said.
The Girl Scouts then explored the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and took a ride to Lester River on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.
"The train was my favorite," Lilly Reilly, 11, said. "I could smell the flowers and see outside."
The final stop was back at UWS, where they explored the cab of a Halvor Lines semi truck, figured out how pipelines work using PVC pipe and water, and used a flight simulator and made paper airplanes to understand more about aerodynamics.
"People don't quite understand what transport does and is," Roemhildt said. "It's always changing and developing. Maybe next year we'll have something totally different."
About a quarter of the students in UW-Superior's Transportation and Logistics Management major are women - that's more than the current percentage of trucking industry workers who are women.
"Many women don't think of working in transport, but end up there anyway," Voie said. "We want to increase the percentage and open some doors."
By the time the day was ending, the girls were putting transportation into the context of their own lives.
"We're Girl Scouts, we do Girl Scout cookies," said Schaefer. "Wheat starts at the farm and travels all the way to the factory. I think that's cool. If we didn't get the wheat, we wouldn't get the Girl Scout cookies."