Studies show that girl’s confidence and interest in STEM activities and experiences decline in middle school. Women are under-represented in STEM professions, so it is important that we expose girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math early on in hopes of bridging the gender gap in STEM.
To get the girls interested in technology we thought it was appropriate to take them to Florida Polytechnic University. We wanted the girls to get excited about attending college and immerse themselves in the college experience. Lauren Willison, the director of admissions, started the day with a presentation on the process of going to college. She talked about what you need to do before you apply to colleges, like taking the ACT and SAT. How to choose the right school and how many you should apply to and how to pay for college and the importance of planning for college at their current age. After speaking with Lauren, the girls were excited to get the campus tour started.
Mikayla and Karla, two female FL Poly students, guided the girls around campus. The girls were able to sit in a classroom, visit the gaming editor suite and view the 3D printers in action. Just like the first day the girls had so many great questions on what it is like to be a college student. Their favorite part of the tour was visiting the dorms and getting to see the living space. After the tour, they went back to the admissions center where Lauren asked how many of them are going to go to college. All hands went up in sync. The girls were excited about their future.
For lunchtime, the girls were joined by Mary Crowe and other female STEM faculty from Florida Southern College. The ladies broke up into groups, and talked to the girls about their careers in STEM.
Once the girls were reenergized from lunch, it was activity time. The girls were broken up into four groups and given a series a prompts to choose from, these were based on global problems such as heart disease, traffic, and garbage pollution. The goal of this activity was for each group to design new technology to help solve their global problem. They were given 45 minutes to plan and design their projects or “hacks” as they were referred to. Each group was given the opportunity to strengthen their presentation skills by sharing their creative project with the whole group.
Hacks consisted of Apps that told you how much time to run on a treadmill to reduce the risk of heart disease. Another hack was trash hovers/drones that could be used to suction up trash from the ocean. Imagine a drone shaped like an octopus that could suction up trash from our oceans. Pretty cool idea! One other group designed a machine called the RecyleNator that would recycle your water bottles and provide you with a brand new one. This group of inventors also created an app called “Find My Water” (spoof off of “Find My iPhone” app) that would allow hikers and park visitors to use the app to locate a RecyleNator machine in the park. All the groups were proud and excited about their ideas.
To end the day, FL Poly had the girls compete by breaking up into groups and having each team build a tower out of wooden blocks, an activity done by accepted students at orientation. The team with the tallest tower that could support a plastic Phoenix wins. The girls were very competitive during this activity. As time passed by towers got taller, and some teams had to rebuild their towers to make them taller and have a chance to beat the other teams. The girls learned to work together and not play it safe. The teams were so close in height, 3rd place measured 53 inches, 2nd place measured 54 inches, and the winning team measured 55 inches. Great finish to our 2nd class day.