Our Design Your World STEM Conference for Girls held on April 1, 2017 at Southern Methodist University was a phenomenal success!. By the numbers, 137 6th-8th graders, 37 parents and educators, and 85 volunteers helped make it an exciting day to learn about what it means to be an engineer. THANK YOU to all of our generous corporage sponsors: Exxon Mobil, Abbott, Lennox International, USAA, Schneider Electric, Rockwell Collins, State Farm, and Bentley! We would also like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of our event coordinators: Samica Norman (Dallas SWE VP of Outreach and DYW Event Chair), Lynn Mortensen (Volunteer Coordinator), Daphne Hornbuckle and Becky Byford (Registration Chairs), Shelley Stracener (marketing and media), Abi Badiru (opening/closing ceremony), Amber Scheurer (parent/educator forum), Grace Harrell (student activities), Haley Hannenberg (student lead and logistics), and Liz Hainey (fundraising/finance and food order).
Photos and Video
Sukai Durosimi, Superintendent of East Fort Worth Montessori Academy Schools, started the day by speaking about the role educators/parents play in sparking interest in STEM topics for young girls. Students also met each other and women engineer volunteers while playing a BINGO ice breaker game.
We had a great variety of student activities to choose from this year! Each student experienced three of the below activities during their day:
- Invention Challenge – United States Patent & Trademark Office
Students learned about intellectual property, then came up with an invention and brand logo (trademark) and pitched their ideas to the group.
- Recycle Runway – Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas
Girls used “unconventional materials” like bubble wrap, fishing line, egg cartons, and duct tape to engineer a new textile, then create a piece of functional art.
- Drone Technology – OnPoynt Aerial Solutions
Students assembled an actual quad-copter piece-by-piece and learned about each component of the drone! Unfortunately we were too close to the airport to allow test flights, but hopefully this introduction to drone technology will inspire future at-home activities.
- Solar Robot – Schneider Electric
Girls assembled cars from kit parts that were powered by solar panels, then tested their designs outside.
- Video Game Computer Programming – Microsoft Store
Students used Microsoft tools to create their own computer game!
- Alice Programming – Women of AT&T
A DYW favorite, Alice Programming let students create their own 3D animated world using computer programming concepts.
- Design A Mechanical Hand – Abbott Laboratories
Students learned how to make prototype drawings, then used cardboard, sting, and drinking straws to create a mechanical hand like the prostheses engineers design for amputee patients.
- Gravity Cars – State Farm
Girls made and decorated a car from wood blocks, dowels, wheels, and other household items, then tested their designs powered by gravity down elevated tracks.
Parent & Educator Sessions
After the opening speaker, the parents and educators were met by Amber Scherer of Texas Instruments, who served as the session coordinator and moderator of the day’s panels. During the day, the attendees heard from several female engineers and educators, many of whom are also parents, to inspire and share ideas for encouraging young girls to choose STEM careers.
The first panel helped outline examples of the many paths to a STEM career. Panelists Zaineb Ahmad (MedHost), Taylor Boswell (Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc.), Kim Concillado (NPI), and Kimberley Reid (Hitachi Consulting) all shared personal stories about their journey and the people that helped them along the way. Discussions included how high school class choices influenced their future career choices, how AP classes shaped their academic experience, and whether it’s worth it to spend money on week-long engineering camps. Parents expressed concern about how engineering might affect their students’ ability to participate in other hobbies, but the panelists assured them that they were able to enjoy extracurriculars like sports and sororities during their college experience.
After lunch, the session continued with more targeted discussion on how to prepare in High School for STEM careers. This session discussed many of the challenges parents face when trying to teach, coach, and encourage their girls to be confident and excel in school. In addition, panelists Susanna Biancheri (AT&T), Rebekah Nap (Hitachi Consulting), and Adlena Jacobs (Mesquite ISD Engineering Design Educator) shared their thoughts on balancing extracurricular activities and hobbies with work or school.
The final session of the day consisted of Amy Glenn (Associate Director of Engineering Admissions, Purdue), and Kimberley Reid (Hitachi Consulting). Amy shared her perspective from within the “Office of Future Engineers” at Purdue – including How To Pay for College and The Secret Sauce for Being Admitted. Kimberley and Amy answered many questions about preparing for college, and different avenues to make college more affordable.
Resource Section 1 – Specific to this Presentation
- Descriptions of Engineering Majors at Purdue
- Mrs. Adlena Jacob’s websites: www.yearnspace.weebly.com, www.steminnovations.org
Resource Section 2 – General Resources
Closing and Engineering Fashion Show
Cherrie Fisher, Environmental Manager at At&t, finished the day by speaking on the importance and impact of women in STEM professions for industry/world. In closing, our Engineering Fashion Show participants Amanda Posadas (IT Requirement Manager at AT&T), Cherrie Fisher, Abi Badiru (National Goal Alignment Pillar Lead at Nestle Waters NA), and Amber Scheurer (Process Engineer, Semiconductor Manufacturing at Texas Instruments) showed how what they wear to work helps them do their jobs and in some cases protects them or the products they work on!
One very thankful parent sent us a very kind note right after the event:
My daughter and her friend recently attended the STEM class at SMU on Saturday and I just wanted to take the time to let you know how much my daughter enjoyed the class. Your volunteers and Engineers have truly left a very big impression on her. She couldn’t say enough about your volunteers. I unfortunately was not able to attend with her and it sounds that the Engineers were friendly, funny and very engaging. My daughter is very bright and scores very high on testing however does not like math and struggles at times, however loves Science. My hope was that this class would help her make the connection with the science she loves and math. I think you have been successful. Her new favorite movie is Hidden figures. Please thank everyone involved.
We also received some great responses on our attendee and volunteer surveys.
Student Reflections: What did you like most?
I loved the fashion show!! The gaming was exciting.
I liked doing the race cars although I didn’t win I still loved it.
Working together in my group and listening 2 the presentations!
All the educators were so energizing and fun, really makes me love creating and designing things for my world.
The event was extremely well-organized! I was really impressed. The girls in my group loved all of their activities.
The girls really seemed to enjoy the hands on project. They were mostly independent of us and I think getting to make something functional was really positive.
Volunteer and student sessions were well organized. Students and parents who attended were thrilled with the whole day.
This is why we continue to put on this event twice a year since 2012! Our next Design Your World STEM Conference will be this fall. Stay tuned for more details on that event as we transition our Dallas SWE leadership team over the summer!