Girls branch out in science, technology, engineering and math through STEM

Girl Day chat Thursday is national Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Part of Engineers Week, Feb. 16-20, Girl Day is aimed to end the long-held belief about engineering and gender, in which men have traditionally dominated. Girl Day will kick off with a live #STEMchat on Twitter, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. This year’s chat focuses on the school-to-career track in engineering for girls, with a specific focus on inspiring, motivating and ultimately retaining girls in the field. For more information, visit www.discovere.org.

Middle school and high school students explored careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — STEM — last Saturday at the College of Lake County’s STEM Day for Girls.

A total of 191 girls and 60 parents attended hands-on workshops and presentations at the college’s Grayslake campus. Last year, 80 girls attended STEM Day.

“For the first time ever, we had to close registration early,” said Maureen Robinson, the college’s associate dean of biological and health sciences. “That’s an amazing problem to have and it also tells us next year we have to go bigger.”

At an opening assembly, Robinson told students they were “making an investment in your education and your future career.”

Girls selected from a variety of workshops, including lasers, medical technology, engineering, sustainability and nanotechnology. Each session provided hands-on, practical experience. Industry representatives were on hand to offer career advice during lunch.

Judy Drake, 13, of Lindenhurst said she attended the event because, “I’m looking to go into the engineering field.” She said she was hoping “to learn more about it.” Her first workshop was “Engineering Our Future,” presented by past and present College of Lake County students.

“Someone told my science teacher about this program and I was really interested because science and math are my favorite subjects,” said Ava Nadjari, 12, of Lincolnshire. “I asked my mom to sign me up.”

Parents participated in workshops to learn how to encourage their daughters to study STEM fields, experience hands-on activities they can repeat at home, and learn about STEM programs at CLC and scholarship opportunities.

Willy Pardinas of Green Oaks attended the event with his daughter, Sofia, 14.

“My first degree is in engineering and I wanted my daughter to consider it,” said Pardinas, senior vice president of Metagenics, a health-care products company. “She’s got a very open mind, she’s inquisitive, and I think the environment is not always best suited for women to go into engineering. I wanted to learn how to help her do that, as well as see if she likes it.”

“It’s really about her,” Andrew Forrest of Highland Park said of his 11-year-old daughter, Ainsley. “We’re trying to figure out where she’s at, where she’s going, and see if she’s interested in any of this. Giving her exposure early is, I understand, always helpful, and providing her with an opportunity to see what it is she wants to do, ” Forrest said.

“It’s a great opportunity,” added Ainsley’s mother, Ann. “I’m learning a lot. She has to see mom interested, or it doesn’t fly.”

Carol Foreman, a seventh-grade science teacher at Big Hollow Middle School in Ingleside, was supervising an experiment in the STEM Day Exploratorium.

“I think it’s really important for us to keep these girls interested in science all the way through high school,” Foreman said. “We lose them as juniors and seniors and we don’t know why. It’s very typical for girls to love science and excel in middle school, and by the time they’re a junior, they’re starting to go to prom, they’re dating, and moms may not be too keen on science.

“It doesn’t seem cool anymore to be a scientist,” Foreman said.

“Some of the things they’re doing here are very important in how women absorb and interpret things,” parent Willy Pardinas said of Saturday’s STEM Day. “We can’t do it in a man’s way. I don’t like to generalize, but women are wired differently.”

Girl Day chat Thursday is national Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Part of Engineers Week, Feb. 16-20, Girl Day is aimed to end the long-held belief about engineering and gender, in which men have traditionally dominated. Girl Day will kick off with a live #STEMchat on Twitter, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. This year’s chat focuses on the school-to-career track in engineering for girls, with a specific focus on inspiring, motivating and ultimately retaining girls in the field. For more information, visit www.discovere.org.

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