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Technology Day - June 20, 2017



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.



Environmental Day – June 13, 2017



Young people will play a leading role for a cleaner, greener environment; therefore, it is important to prepare them to be good environmental citizens. Engaging youth in environmental protection and conservation will not only change their behaviors and attitudes but possibly influence their parents, relatives, and families. We wanted to make sure that students attending our program would come out ready to improve their schools, homes, and neighborhoods.


To kick off Environmental Day, we started at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida, where we were greeted by Tabitha Biehl, the Environmental Lands Stewardship Coordinator for Polk County Parks & Natural Resources Division.  She invited Ms. Joan from the Woodland Wonders Wildlife Rehab Center to talk with the girls about how her non-profit organization provides care and treatment for injured, ill, and orphaned wildlife. The girls had great questions about how Ms. Joan took care of the animals and if they were released back into the wild.  Ms. Joan encouraged the girls to get involved in wildlife preservation by volunteering at the Woodland Wonders Wildlife Rehab Center.




The day continued with a tram tour around Circle B. Tabitha talked to the girls about her career and how she became an Environmental Coordinator for the County.  The girls not only learned about the wildlife at Circle B but also about the different career paths in science and math.  The highlight of the tram tour was the opportunity for the girls to get “up close and personal” (at a tram’s length) with so many animals. They learned about animals and plants that are native to Polk County. Squeals of surprise were coming from the back and front of the tram every time we came up on an alligator sunning on the bank of the pond.  Hands were raised all throughout the tram tour, and you could tell the girls were intrigued by the information they learned about animal and land protection.



Once lunchtime rolled around, we headed back to the Circle B meeting room and had a delightful lunch with Commissioner Melony Bell. She shared stories about her career in city and county government and her family’s very successful apiary (bee) business. She encouraged the girls to follow their dreams and continue to move forward regardless of any fear or obstacle they may face.




The next stop in our Program was the Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Auburndale, Florida. Here, the girls learned about the Florida aquifer and its importance in our everyday life and as one of our most valuable natural resources. They learned about water conservation and how to keep our aquifer clean by disposing of our waste correctly. They took a tour of the plant and saw the different cleaning phases that water goes through for it to be reused.




We ended our day at the Polk County Landfill, or the “Dump” as the girls referred to it. The girls were greeted by Ana Wood, Director of Waste and Recycling and her management team made up of all women. The women that they met were all experts in their field and had some great words of wisdom about different career paths like accounting, engineering, and gas well operations.  The girls quickly grasped that it was special for them to hear from a management team made up of all women. The presentation was followed by a bus tour of the landfill, and they learned that no one does garbage like Polk County. We really do have a state-of-the-art waste and recycling system.




Environmental Day was a great start to this Youth Leadership Program. On our way home the girls took the time to write in their journals about their experience, some of them had over five pages of notes!  We also received great feedback from some of the speakers on how engaged and responsive the group had been. We are excited for the next four sessions of the program and hope that it continues to stimulate the girls and expand their knowledge.


Brenda Torres and Reba Coil



Comments from Speakers:

“Thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of this Leadership Program. Girls Inc. is such an excellent program and the group of young leaders you brought today were a testimony to that. One of the best tram tours we have done for a youth group in a long while. Thank you very much!! Please let us know how we can support the program to keep it growing!”

Tabitha Biehl, Environmental Lands Stewardship Coordinator, Polk County Parks & Natural Resources Division