STEM Chicks gets girls’ interest piqued in science

Eight Girl Scouts visited Anoka-Ramsey Community College Feb. 19 – and after 90 minutes, the girls had evolved into science and technology geeks and engineering and math aficionados.

Kaylee Garey and Lilah Grubb get a close look at the inside of a cow’s eyeball after Dr. Shawn Magner dissects it and describes to the Girl Scouts the biology of eyesight.

Kaylee Garey and Lilah Grubb get a close look at the inside of a cow’s eyeball after Dr. Shawn Magner dissects it and describes to the Girl Scouts the biology of eyesight.Photo by Sue Austreng

The college’s STEM Chicks student group assisted instructors with the dissection of cows’ eyeballs and the programming of remote controlled robots. Members of Girl Scout Troop 15957 were immediately inspired and gained a deeper appreciation of science, technology, engineering and math.

“I think this is pretty cool,” said Kaylee Garey as Dr. Shawn Magner dissected a cow’s eyeball and then gave the girls an up-close look at the biology within.

Shayla Plunkett was equally fascinated with the remote controlled activity of the robots.

“We just pushed a button and look what they do,” Shayla said, watching the robot move forward, pick up a plastic cup, then return in reverse to its original position.

“Encouraging girls’ interest in STEM subjects at an early age is important,” said Nina Bohrod, math instructor at Anoka-Ramsey. “A 2012 study released by Girl Scout Research Institute found that even though the majority of girls have a high interest in STEM fields, few of them identify a STEM career as their first choice. The study found that girls say they don’t know a lot about STEM careers and the opportunities in these fields.”

Helena Frank and Shayla Plunkett watch as a remote control robot approaches a plastic cup, lifts it and rolls backwards, returning to its starting position.

Helena Frank and Shayla Plunkett watch as a remote control robot approaches a plastic cup, lifts it and rolls backwards, returning to its starting position.Photo by Sue Austreng

Wendy Garey accompanied the Girls Scouts, including daughter Kaylee, to the Feb. 29 STEM Chicks event.

“I hope the girls will be interested in science and I want them to know that girls can do anything boys might do,” Garey said.

After showing the girls how to make the final electronic connections on the remote controlled robots, Bill Saari, director of engineering at Anoka-Ramsey said he hoped “to get them enthusiastic about science, technology, engineering.”

“Engineering is a great job opportunity where you can make some great money. And employers don’t care – male or female, they just want someone who knows science, engineering, math, physics.” Saari said.

In the science department, Dr. Shawn Magner introduced Girl Scouts to biology with the dissection and exploration of cows’ eyeballs.

“I just hope they gain an appreciation for science, get excited about a science career,” Magner said.

STEM Chicks, a recently formed student group at Anoka-Ramsey, was created to help support and encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and math.

Ryann Lynch, president of STEM Chicks, described her experience with science.

“I was supported in my interest in chemistry but didn’t know how I could apply it,” said Lynch, who now plans to become a pediatrician. “It helps a lot to give girls an idea of what they can do in these fields.”

The 2012 Girl Scout Research Institute study also showed that girls interested in STEM subjects are drawn to the creative and hands-on aspects of those subjects.

Specifically, the study shows that 85 percent of girls interested in STEM subjects like to solve problems, 67 percent like to build things and put things together, 83 percent want to do hands-on science projects, and 80 percent ask questions about how things work and find ways to answer those questions.

Kamla Modi, a research and outreach analyst put it this way, “While we know that the majority of girls prefer a hands-on approach in STEM fields, we also know that girls are motivated to make the world a better place and to help people.”

“Girl Scouts of the USA is committed to engaging girls in STEM activities and encouraging them to pursue STEM interests both in and outside the classroom, in part through program partnerships,” Modi said.

Anticipating the discoveries the girls would make during the Feb. 19 STEM Chicks event, Troop Leader Jennifer Klersy said she was excited for the troop members to participate.

“These activities are all totally outside of anything we have done before, and I think the girls will love it,” she said.

And, in fact, even as the STEM Chicks event unfolded before their very eyes, the seven- to nine-year-old girls expressed a desire to learn more.

“I like this. I hope we do this again,” said Lilah Grubb, an eager smile spread across her face as she and her fellow Girl Scouts took off goggles and plastic gloves and left the science room, ready for the next presentation.

Sue Austreng is at
sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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