Keeping middle school girls interested in STEM
In our last post we looked at what one company was doing to develop an interest in STEM in girls while they are still very young. Today we will talk about a group that is working to ignite a love for STEM in middle school girls.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) with their event, Invent it. Build it. aims to engage middle school girls and their parents through a hands on experience with actual scientists, engineers and more. “The event started as a partnership between the ExxonMobil Foundation, SWE and The Girl Scouts of the USA. We all put our heads together and decided that this event would be an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the girls. Since year one, we have expanded the event to include a Parent and Educator Program (PEP) as well as an EXPO that is open to the public as well as the participants,” said Randy Freedman, Outreach Manager for SWE.
According to Freedman, the event started with the idea “that having middle school girls do hands on engineering activities with female role models would have a significant impact on attitudes about engineering.” This hypothesis has proved true and Invent it. Build it. is now an annual event that takes place at the Society of Women Engineers Conference. “Hosting this event at the Society of Women Engineers annual conference allows us to introduce these girls to engineers from around the world. It’s a unique time and an amazing opportunity for these kids. Over the last three years we have found a 30% increase in the number of girls interested in engineering as a career post event,” said Freedman.
Locations for the event vary each year; this year the event will be held in Baltimore, and we highly encourage you and your girls to attend! Everyone will leave with an understanding of what engineers do and how they make a world of difference.
Watch the Invent it. Build it. experience below!
Q&A with Randy Freedman from SWE
At what age should parents introduce STEM activities to their children?
Children are born scientists. It is never too early. What is key is to keep them interested. This can be done by participating in organizations like Girl Scouts, FIRST or the Maker movement. Events like Invent It. Build It. provide a taste of what it is to be an engineer and introduce middle school girls to the community. Our EXPO provide the girls, parents and educators with exposure to some of these other resources so that they can continue beyond our event.
How important do you think it is for girls and women to have role models when pursuing STEM careers?
This may be the single most import ingredient. We need to demonstrate that the women in STEM come from all walks of life, have a wide variety of jobs and lead dynamic and interesting lives.
What are some of the actual career positions in the STEM world?
Engineering offers jobs in aerospace, agriculture, architecture, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, management, physics, environmental, industrial, manufacturing, materials, mechanical, mining, nuclear, petroleum, ocean, software and systems. Biomedical engineering in particular is projected to grow 72% through 2018 and petroleum engineers have a starting average salary of $80,849!
What advice can you give to girls who are interested in STEM?
STEM is a growing area of opportunity. Companies like ExxonMobil sponsor what we at SWE and the Girls Scouts do because they want to attract a more diverse work force. Diversity has been shown to improve output. The world needs more women in the sciences. You can be that STEM professional.