Inspiring young girls into STEM fields

Kids show off their creations at the 2016 Kids Career Day at UA.

Photo by Kaitlin Erdman

Kids show off their creations at the 2016 Kid’s Career Day at UA.

By Kaitlin Erdman

It is known that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, but an event held every year at The University of Akron is working to change that.  

Last Saturday, UA held the 2016 Kid’s Career Day in the Student Union. This event, sponsored by Lockheed Martin and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, was a half-day program intended to spark interest in young girls to pursue futures as scientists, engineers, or mathematicians.

Since 1999, Kid’s Career Day has welcomed young girls, primarily girl scouts and their siblings, to get involved with non-traditional STEM activities in hopes of inspiring budding scientists. This year, 330 girls attended the event.

The girls built small roller coasters, learned how to connect circuits, and made edible gummy worms and chocolate asphalt.

“With the use of hands-on activities at the event, we try to build confidence in girls so that they feel comfortable with science, technology, math and engineering,” says Heidi Cressman, director of Women in Engineering at UA.

Cressman stresses the need for diversity in fields such as engineering, physics, mathematics and computer science. “Increasing diversity will result in the production of the best new ideas to help the human race move forward,” she said.

UA students from various design teams and STEM-based groups helped the girls embrace the fun side of science and nurture their excitement for learning. For some students, such as Monica Feltman, a freshman studying engineering, this event was one she attended when she herself was in elementary school.

For others, working the event was a great opportunity to meet and affect young girls.

“It was really great to see girls of all ages get introduced and excited about engineering early on,” said Kelly O’Neill, a sophomore in electrical engineering.  

O’Neill is a member of the University’s NASA Robotics Team, which demonstrated its mining robot to the kids. The team also helped run an activity involving bug bots – small motors that are connected to pieces of styrofoam that bounce and buzz when turned on. The kids were able to decorate their small bots using tape, feathers, and other craft supplies.

Psychologist and parenting specialist Sylvia Rimm was also available to speak with parents, teachers, and troop leaders on keeping girls interested in STEM subjects.

A similar event coming next to the University is “Inspiration Day” on March 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Quaker Station. This free event, presented by the U.S. Department of Defense, is designed for middle-school-age girls to explore careers in STEM fields.