STEM4Girls event highlights science and math careers

Mar 4, 2018

Elementary and middle school girls spent March 3 building catapults, analyzing DNA, and investigating other science-based projects at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s annual STEM4Girls Day.

More than 130 girls participated in a day full of various activities related to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Students were broken into respective groups and attended different workshops, and also met with guest speaker Angie Dorsey, an aerospace engineer for NASA, to hear about her work and why joining a STEM field is exciting.

Eighth grader Lynn Nzouadja-Keundo has been attending the program for four years. She enjoys learning something new every year.

“I really love it,” Nzouadja-Keundo said. “You get to experience some things you didn’t before.”

Students participated in a variety of programs, such as becoming DNA Detectives, building catapults and making earrings from fuses, among others.

Students explored basic math in a fun way using a globe of the world to talk about percentages, ratios and more. DNA Detective participants had to use DNA to figure out who took an iPhone, while other students built helicopters using rubber bands to make them propel during a session on helicopters.

High school students also hosted a robotics demonstration. Students ended the day asking a panelist of five women in different careers questions.

UMass Dartmouth Kaput Center Director Chandra Orrill noted the program is meant to make STEM more enticing for girls.

“The goal is to engage them in seeing that STEM is fun as well learning some of the content of STEM,” Orrill said. “What the research shows us is between fourth and eighth grade, girls tend to lose interest in pursuing science and math courses, which locks them out of pursuing STEM careers later.”

Women held 47 percent of all jobs in America in 2015, but only 24 percent were in a STEM fields, according to the United States Department of Commerce.

Orrill said getting girls into STEM fields is also important for equalizing the workforce and perspective.

“If we want to see a more equal workforce this is the age we have to grab their attention,” Orrill said. “Both men and women live in the world and if we want to improve everybody’s lives then we need to have people from all different perspectives contributing to improving everyone’s lives.”

In total, the event has been going on for seven years.

It was originally called Green Light for Girls, which was a partnership between the university and the Green Light for Girls organization.

Three years ago the the university changed the event to STEM4Girls when it discontinued the partnership.