Event Recap: March 2015 Design Your World – STEM Conference for Girls


This spring’s Design Your World-STEM Conference for Girls was an outstanding success!  Two events for the 2014-2015 fiscal year were generously supported by Exxon Mobil, Capital One, Pryor Packaging and an outreach award grant from SWE International.  The March 2015 DYW event was executed completely by volunteers and a new partnership with the Dallas Independent School District. Dallas SWE has been keen to expand access to this event after receiving feedback from local school teachers during a Sci-Girls workshop in January 2014.  They identified logistical challenges of metroplex travel and an increased need to reach out to newer regions in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School

Dallas SWE reached out to Dallas ISD’s STEM Department Executive Director Oscar Alvanrenga and Director Crystal Alexander.  They identified Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School as the optimum facility for an event of this kind. Jane Didear of Dallas ISD Volunteer and Partnership Services provided additional assistance.  The SMU SWE student section, counseled by former Dallas SWE President Jennifer Vilbig, selected Kelly Howey to be the student Co-Chair to partner with professional Co-Chair and Dallas SWE VP of Outreach Nandika D’Souza. Lynn Mortensen, Co-Chair of the November 2014 Design Your World conference for 6-12th grade girls, continued her phenomenal volunteer recruitment efforts.  120 girls, 64 adults and 92 volunteers registered through Eventbrite, managed by DYW Webmaster and Registration Chair Shelley Stracener.

Upon arrival at Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School, students picked up a lavender-colored t-shirt and goody bag made possible by AT&T and Raytheon.  The opening session was held in the school’s auditorium with plenty of space for everyone. Meagan Pollock, Director of Professional Development for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) led the opening program communicating the excitement and limitless potential of STEM careers. She engaged the audience in a teamwork game engaging all their senses.  Kendria Johnson, a teacher at Zan Wesley Holmes Jr., then brought her nationally recognized STEM dance troup that highlighted the importance of personal value over peer pressure. Inspired, attendees then made their way to their STEM activities. Six activities were run in 3 sessions allowing each girl to experience the design paradigm for three engineering fields.

  • Mechanical Energy- Marshmallows and Spaghetti was led by Lori Wiltz Halliburton and Ophelie Herve, SMU-SWE
  • Computer Science- Fun with Alice was led by Mayaria Johnson, UNT-SWE and ACM-W
  • Biomedical: Clearing a Path the Heart was led by Cynthia Markbreiter and Mar McCreary    SMU-SWE
  • Chemical Engineering-Polymer Jewelry was led by Alicia D’Souza, STEMcess.com    and Andres Garcia-UNT Society of Plastics Engineers
  • Aerospace Engineering: Rocket Fun, was developed by Rachel Shepherd, SMU-SWE
  • Electrical Engineering: Lights, Sound, Action was led by the Women of AT&T Jennifer Gamboa-Haker and Arianna Santiago, SMU SWE

Dallas SWE continued the SWE Outreach Award winning Parent/Educator Panel sessions this year, chaired by Anita Pacheco. After the joint opening session, the parent/educator group convened in the auditorium. Amber Scheurer moderated a panel discussion, “Helping students prepare for a STEM career,” with Joey Jiang (Halliburton), Cherrie Fisher (AT&T), and Justa Trevino (Raytheon).  The panelists shared challenges they faced such as being the first in the family to go to college or having to learn English as a second language. They also discussed their experiences overcoming bias in the workplace and strategies they used to encourage their children in STEM.

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School is home to a nationally competitive underwater robotic team!  Students on the team demonstrated their robot for the group of adults and the team’s teacher sponsor, Michelle Thomas, shared her best practices for parents and educators to work with their schools to replicate their success.  Then parents and educators had time to connect with each other and professional engineers over lunch.

They reconvened in the auditorium for a panel called “My Engineering Life” moderated by Anita Pacheco (Oorvo, Inc). The panelists, recent engineering graduates, included Jennifer Vilbig (Vilbig & Associates, Amber Scheurer (Texas Instruments) and Shelley Stracener (Heads Up Technologies).  They talked about the impact of an engineering degree on their income level and financial independence, how they enjoyed working in teams, and how their work experiences were very team-focused. They highlighted this last point because engineering is often misunderstood as a reclusive job with little social interaction.  After the panel, Nandika D’Souza then went over the steps that are involved in college admissions using materials provided by Landon Ellison, Admissions Officer, Engineering, UNT. The adults found the session to be very rewarding in providing a road map to assist children.

As the end of the day drew near, students and volunteers moved back to the auditorium. Dallas SWE members elicited squeals of excitement as they put on an Engineering Fashion Show, displaying all the different careers and clothing an engineer uses in her everyday work!  Then, an AT&T-led high school robot team showed a design they created.  As children and adults filled out assessments and left, the excitement from attendees was unmistakable: engineering unleashes energy, ideas, and possibilities!

Engineering Fashoin Show!

Engineering Fashoin Show!

Volunteer organizations that supported the event included Women of AT&T, Halliburton and Abbott; student sections of UNT-Society of Plastics Engineers, UNT-Society of Women Engineers and UNT-ACM.

Visit our Facebook page for more great photos!

Check out these great videos from our day of fun and learning!
Video prepared by Student Co-Chair Kelly Howey
Dallas ISD Education Technology department’s video


~ Nandika D’Souza, PhD
Design Your World March 2015 Event Co-Chair


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