More than 1,000 Scouts recently took over the campus of Dillard University for the Girl Scouts Louisiana East S.T.E.M. Extravaganza.
S.T.E.M. stands for science, technology, engineering and math, all career fields where women are vastly underrepresented. In fact, less than 25 percent of jobs in these fields are held by women.
Part of a national initiative by the Girl Scouts to encourage interest in these scientific fields, the second annual S.T.E.M. Extravaganza invited Scouts from kindergarten to eighth grade to interact with more than 50 presenters from Louisiana.
Throughout the day, girls were invited to witness various demonstrations by big names like the NASA John C. Stennis Space Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Loyola Chemistry Department, Lockheed Martin, New Orleans Geological Society, the Sewerage and Water Board and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The event also included numerous hands-on opportunities, including the chance to study the brain with the UNO Department of Psychology; to build a ROV, or remotely operated vehicle, with the Navy; and to make artificial snow with the Dillard University Department of Physics.
Tori Seymour, 12, said the presentation by Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation was among her favorites of the day.
“It showed how the wetlands can actually clean up the water and help to save fish and animals,” she said, noting that science is her favorite subject and she hopes to become a forensic pathologist.
Just a few booths over, 7-year-old Peyton Larmeu was one of many girls that lined up to operate a robot built by a student from Northshore High School in Slidell.
“I liked the robots,” she said. “I like that they can pick up stuff, and it was funny when one almost got your foot,” she said with a laugh, looking at the adult next to her.
Creating this kind of excitement is what Kevin Shipp, program services and events coordinator for Girl Scouts of Louisiana East, said was the goal of the event.
“This event is focused on the modern girl and her future,” he said. “It’s our way of providing an opportunity, outside of the classroom, for girls to not just see science in action but become a part of it while also meeting female role models in these fields.”
Among those role models was Wendy Dolan, founder of a company called Get Online Nola that works with local businesses to establish a Web presence.
Dolan spent the afternoon teaching fourth- through eighth-graders how to build their own blog using a site called WordPress. Included in the instruction was how to insert images and video into their blog and an introduction to the basics of HTML coding.
“The feeling seems to be that there are ‘pink jobs’ and then there are ‘blue jobs,’ ” Dolan said. “Part of our mission as a company is to engage women of all ages in programming and Web design and show them how satisfying it can be to take a blank page and create something really useful.”
While not every girl who attended the event is bound to go on to a career in a STEM field, the goal of the annual GSLE S.T.E.M. Extravaganza is to help girls realize there is a wider array of options available to them than they may realize.