On March 16, 2023, around 126 young female students participated in the Black Gold School Division’s fourth Girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Day at West Haven Public School.
This very successful event exposed young women to the unique and exciting possibilities available in the science, technology, and engineering sectors, and sent the message that girls should not shy away because of perceived gender roles or stereotypes.
The young women put on their sponsored lab coats and were all smiles as they participated in a full day of presentations and engaged in learning about what they can contribute as females to these traditionally male-dominated fields.
“The Girls in STEM events give us unique opportunities to bring in special guests, as well as local specialists, including Black Gold alumni, to serve as positive female role models while leading our girls through various interactive sessions,” said event organizer Tarynne Cable. “Each session includes career connections and a reflection of the learning.”
The keynote speaker at this year’s event was Canadian rocket scientist Natalie Panek, who has worked on a Mars space rover for the European Space Agency. The quote “pushing the limits like a girl” was the highlight of Panek’s opening comments. She spoke about her career journey and the emotional resilience she required to make it in this field, explaining her drive and her motivation to achieve her passion as she achieved her mechanical and aerospace engineering degrees.
Panek had all eyes on her as she spoke about her end goal not being achieved and the adversity and determination to alter her original plan. “When it came time for questions, the students were so interested that we required additional time,” said Cable. “The sheer number of thoughtful questions was proof of how engaged these young women were in this event.
The students also heard from civil, chemical, and materials engineers, and worked in teams to build solar-powered lanterns, learn air quality testing techniques, code tools to pump water with electronic sensors, and took part in a pneumatics design challenge where they lifted heavy objects using air pressure and syringes.
There were representatives present from post-secondary institutions and groups like SHAD Canada and Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology (WISEST), who informed the students of opportunities for grants, internships, summer jobs, etc. The overall message for the day is to share the vast opportunities available to these young women.
Girls in STEM is not only an education sponsored event, but it also has the support of the school community and local and regional businesses. “We want to again thank all of our wonderful sponsors for their support in helping to make the day fun and inspiring for our students,” said Cable.
“This event is not only about empowering young women, it’s about coming to an understanding that females can do any job they want to do,” added Cable. “Closing the gender gaps in the crucial STEM field leads to added creativity and innovation. When people of different backgrounds are involved in working to solve the pressing problems we all face, you will get fresh ideas and perspectives that can lead to better solutions.”
Find out more on the Girls in STEM webpage.