TechGYRLS Encourages Young Girls to Explore STEM Fields

The College of Engi­neering and the Society of Women Engineers have banded together to show young girls that science and technology fields aren’t just for boys.

Sophomore mechanical engineering major and SWE member Karlie Matejcek helps run this year’s Tech­GYRL program. She said the third- through seventh-grade girls work on a variety of projects from robots and coding to a projectile motion activity with life-size Angry Birds. Toothpick structures, hydrogen cars and rockets are also on the agenda for the 10-week course.

“I really love the fact that these girls come in from different backgrounds and different families and they get to learn about science and math,” Matejcek said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce found in 2009 that only 24 percent of the science, technology, engi­neering and mathematics workforce consists of wom­en.

Because men tend to dominate STEM fields, Matejcek and other student instructors in the program said that teaching young girls to explore science and other technology fields is vi­tally important.

“(Girls are) never really encouraged to become sci­entists and mathematicians and engineers,” Matejcek said, “and I think this is an important program because we really allow them to grow in that sense.”

Victoria Thomason, who is a fifth grader from El­len Hopkins Elementary in Moorhead, said she loves being part of TechGYRLS.

“I want to be an engineer like my dad,” she said with a smile.

The program may be de­signed for young girls and taught by mostly women, but NDSU men are lending a hand as well.

Scott Weninger, a junior computer science major, was at Monday’s session where the girls played with robots that they coded themselves on a computer program. He was also at Tuesday’s class where the girls concocted their own ice cream.

Weninger said that girls tend to grow up thinking that the math and science is for boys, and because of that, the world is missing out.

“Not just engineers, but the world, hasn’t been using the other half historically,” he said. “We’ve been push­ing women away, but really if you take their perspective, honestly we haven’t been using our full potential.”

Throughout the course, the elementary and middle school girls get a taste for what may become a lifelong passion or just a fun course to expand their horizons.

“You want everyone to go for whatever they want to, and this is the best time to show them everything, a little bit here and there,” Weninger said. “Even if they don’t like engineering or math and science, they can go a different way knowing that they at least tried it.”

The third- and fourth-grade students meet from 4:15-6:15 p.m. every Mon­day and their session is at full capacity. However, there is still room in the fifth-through seventh-grade level, which meets every Tuesday at the same time.

The session costs $50.

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