Girls Go Tech offers inspiring intro to STEM

Several middle-school girls in the engineering lab at Girls Go Tech.
Several middle-school girls in the engineering lab at Girls Go Tech.

By Katauna Loeuy

The Girls Go Tech organization held their annual one-day workshop, which introduces middle school girls to STEM careers.
When the Perking’s non-traditional grant was awarded to this program, the Girls Go Tech event had been offered annually since 2010. The grant reaches out to underrepresented populations, making Girls Go Tech an ideal association because it supports women interested in science, technology, engineering or math jobs.
The grant also assists the Guys and Guts program in March for middle school boys interested in nursing and allied health. In addition to the Perking’s grant, funding is also provided from local organizations including Cyber Watch West and the American Association of University Women.
Trish Newbold is one of the representatives for the Girls Go Tech workshop. She carries the responsibility of managing the Perking’s Grant through her office and also coordinates the Work Press Education at Whatcom Community College.
“I always come away so energized because the girls had such a fantastic time. They come away with new friends often and their interest in these fields spark and they love the hands-on experience,” Newbold said.
The workshop focuses on a variety of diverse labs, however the event began with a guest speaker and a campus wide scavenger hunt.
Newbold explained how Marty Mulholland, the director of I.T. services in Bellingham, delivered an incredibly heartfelt speech with personal examples of her story, including how she had witnessed a system being hacked, the risks involved and how her team responded to the unfortunate event.
The scavenger hunt was also included within the workshop in order to familiarize the girls with Whatcom’s campus. This portion of the event added a lighter activity to the schedule, while also allowing the students to take a break from the lab work in the classrooms.
In total, there were three labs: the cyber security lab, the physics lab and the engineering lab. The girls enjoyed the hands-on labs throughout the workshop.
The cyber security lab was led by Christy Saunders, as well as her student assistant. This event increased the girls’ knowledge on encryption and safe passwords, while allowing them the chance to practice in a virtual environment by breaking into a bank system. The virtual bank “hired” them to discover any vulnerabilities in the system.
The students instantly adored the physics lab, a recent addition to the program. The middle schoolers learned about circuits and how to wire a house. They also got the opportunity to practice, using a scale model.
Tran Phung was the instructor of this lab, and she has been hosting it since the beginning. “One of the things that I always hope, is that they can do it. This weekend I had one girl who said she wasn’t good at science and I told her that she could do it, so all of the other groups were paired, but she did it all on her own and she was really excited about it.” Phung said.
The newest addition to the workshop is the engineering lab, led by Eric Davishahl, as well as a group of aspiring engineer students who are involved in the Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. Emily Robinson is the president of this student run group. “Trying to recruit more women in STEM is our mission.” said Robinson.
To start the event off, the Whatcom students acted out a skit about the history of engineering and science. “We really iterated that engineering is solving problems in the world using scientific data to optimize life and make society’s living better.” Robinson said.
The skit was very informative, however the girls also had many laughs through this portion of the workshop. After the skit, the group began more hands-on labs that focused on engineering.
The AWSEM club’s involvement within the workshop created a positive impact on the preteens’ view of girls working in STEM careers.
“As I was reading the evaluations, a couple of the girls noted how much they appreciated Whatcom students being there to lead workshops and it wasn’t just faculty, but that our students were a part of it,” said Newbold.
The focal point of the Girls Go Tech organization is simply to encourage girls to pursue careers within the STEM field, all while providing them with an opportunity to gain knowledge on a variety of topics within the subjects. “STEM is adequative. It will intersect with everyone’s career paths. Your comfort level with working with technology will determine your success and career trajectory.” Robinson said.
Robinson continues to explain how currently the numbers of women in the STEM workforce is well below a quarter of each occupation and how it’s necessary that we raise them. “A lot of times people don’t realize the impact of women in science. We bring a different perspective.” said Tran.
The Girls Go Tech workshop is expected to continue for many years ahead in the future. The program has evolved immensely since the first year started in 2010. However, Newbold stated that she didn’t see many major changes on the horizon, just simple fine tuning.

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