Over 100 girls (grades 6-9) and their parents participated in Tech and College sessions at the 2015 Tech Savvy Conference held at Windward Community College. The event was designed to expose middle school girls to the career fields related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and show them women who were already in that field of employment. Each of the eight Tech sessions featured a female presenter using hands-on activities to increase the girls’ interest in STEM careers.
STEM topics included computer coding, sea floor archeology, satellites, suturing lacerations, and the chemistry of chocolate. Because of the small class sizes, the girls got an intimate experience and had a chance to speak directly to each presenter.
According to the Hawaii STEM Connection, “STEM education integrates the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by using scientific inquiry and engineering design as unifying processes. High-quality STEM education emphasizes innovation, critical thinking, collaboration and communication through student focused, rigorous, relevant and authentic learning. STEM education in Hawaii focuses on integrated STEM and STEM disciplines.”
In a recent College Board report, studies showed that females are still underrepresented in courses that lead to careers in STEM fields. In the future this will impact the number of females competing in the job market for these jobs of the future: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math is expected to increase by 13% between 2012 and 2022 (vs. 11% growth for all occupations). As a nation, we are not graduating nearly enough STEM majors to meet this need.”
As part of the conference, the girls were asked to complete a pre- and post-survey to indicate how they felt about science and technology. Although it was a limited sample, the results indicated that after attending the conference, the girls were more confident in pursuing a career in STEM and taking the necessary courses that lead to such careers (see graphs below). As one young participant wrote on her evaluation, “I really enjoyed the chocolate class but learning how to stitch flesh and work on hand/eye coordination was fun!!”
AAUW Honolulu would like to continue to change the perception of STEM in middle school girls. The next Tech Savvy Conference will be Saturday, May 21, 2016 at Windward Community College. For information contact Anna Viggiano (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Pamela Law (email@example.com).