If you ask a young woman what she wants to be when she grows up, computer programming may not come to mind. But ask her who Mark Zuckerberg is, and chances are, she can rattle off a series of opinions about Facebook’s news feed or Android’s new Facebook Home.
In short, outcome might just be the key to STEM education. That’s the thinking behind the May 16 Women in Science conference at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. “We will have nearly 450 girls at the event from 17 schools. Instead of just focusing on the majors offered on our campus, we bring in professionals from all across the region in a variety of areas – from dentists and physicians assistants to entomologists,” Molly Frankl, director of Admissions, explains. The idea: to provide mentors and role models of professional women working in these fields.
Sponsored by Youth in Science Rapid City, the one-day career learning workshop has been an annual event since 2003. And through the generosity of sponsors, it’s free. This allows all middle and high school girls “the opportunity to discover the variety of careers available to them in the STEM fields,” Frankl adds. Meaning, it’s turned some depressingly familiar statistics into promising opportunities for change. Though only one in seven engineers are women, as are a mere 3 percent of computer scientists, a survey of students who attended a similar conference on March 6 showed 90 percent would now consider a science-related career.
From 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., the conference will aim to make lighting strike twice.
After a welcome, Miz Wizard (Jane Curry) will kick off the workshop with a keynote address. Through a storytelling program about women in science fields, she’ll perform a one-act humorous play detailing the history of women in the field with zany experiments throughout.
The rest of the conference will feature breakout sessions, including one led by STARLAB from the S.D. Discovery Center. Other exhibitors have included: Midcontinent Testing Laboratories, SDSM&T Paleontology Laboratory, National Weather Service, USD School of Nursing and the Black Hills National Forest.
Youth in Science Rapid City, Inc., is a nonprofit organization of professional women dedicated to showing young women their potential in pursuing a science-based career.