STEM CONFERENCE FOR 4TH and 5TH GRADE GIRLS INSPIRES GIRLS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Dallas, Texas: On Saturday May 5th, almost 200 fourth and fifth grade girls from North Texas attended the first ever “Design Your World” STEM conference for girls at the University of Texas at Arlington. The high-energy inspirational event was founded by the Dallas Society of Women Engineers with help volunteers from Raytheon Women’s Network (RWN), Women in Technology International (WITI) the American Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and ASM International. Raytheon and ExxonMobil were the Marquee Sponsors for the event.
The day kicked off with an inspirational talk from the first private female space explorer and astronaut, Anousheh Ansari. She shared her enthusiasm for space travel and described what it is like to be a real-life astronaut and engineer. After getting pumped up by Anousheh and the Twister Spirit Athletics cheerleaders, the girls split into teams to try their own hands-on engineering design projects such as constructing marshmallow towers and building water bottle rockets. Female engineers guided the girls through the design, implementation, and testing stages for their activities while encouraging their creativity along the way. After lunch the students attended talks by female professionals who described their technical jobs and explained why they chose STEM careers. The girls also had the opportunity to tour campus labs and interact with college students as they showcased some of their projects such as a bridge they designed and built for an engineering competition. The day finished with an exciting awards ceremony for the participants.
Throughout the day over 110 professional and student volunteers, including nearly 20 Raytheon employees, interacted with the students to share their enthusiasm for science and technology. The volunteers hoped that their participation will have a positive impact on the young girls, 60% of whom were from economically disadvantaged areas.
According 2012 report1 by the Girl Scout Institute, girls need more exposure to STEM fields and adult role models. The report includes the following facts:
• “About half of girls polled believe STEM is not a typical career path for girls”
• “STEM girls have had significantly greater exposure to STEM fields, have stronger adult supportive networks, and have had more of a parental role in their career and future plans than non-STEM girls”
• “Girls are interested in making a difference in the world and need more STEM exposure, education, and experience with the help of key adults in their lives in order to see how STEM fields can achieve their goals now and in the future”
The “Design Your World” event was designed to be an opportunity for girls to meet female engineering role models and see that girls really can success in science, technology, engineering and math. Judging from the smiles on the girls’ faces throughout the day, the students were wowed and inspired by the event. Teachers whose students had attended on Saturday responded that participants were still excited and talking about the event at school Monday morning.
“The program was completely relevant, engaging, and aligned with many of our objectives/ TEKS for technology and science. I know the experience motivated and inspired my girls. They were able to meet and engage with women working in STEM fields as well as complete some really cool, hands-on and advanced science experiments. I think this opportunity opened their eyes to where these careers seem more tangible and achievable to them now.” wrote Irving ISD teacher Laura Guimond.
“It was truly amazing. It was incredible to see the girls blossom and understand that engineering is a great opportunity for them. When my girls built their skyscraper, they used so many different skills: problem solving, trial and error, talking through the problem. It was incredible to see how they solved their dilemma when there were no boys around. I truly wish all of our 4th grade girls could have been there.” Added Amalia Ayers Irving ISD fourth grade teacher.
The volunteers are overwhelmed with the positive feedback and are already discussing plans for next year’s event.
• Kamla Modi, Judy Schoenberg, Kimberlee Salmond, “Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”