On Saturday, March 25, 750 girls in grades 5-10, their parents, and a host of educators will converge on West Chester East High School, West Chester, Pa. The occasion? The GETT Expo—Girls Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology.
The GETT Expo helps girls learn the facts and the fun behind science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Jobs in these disciplines are among the most interesting, lucrative, and rapidly growing in the nation.
Ten women from Boomi worked together for three months to prepare for GETT. Boomi supported the team with time and equipment.
Three members of the team, software engineers Beata Chrulkiewicz, Ellen Osis, and Nancy Kenney from Boomi’s education services, discussed the GETT Expo and the value of exposing girls to STEM topics in their early years.
What is the importance of STEM and by extension the GETT Expo?
Ellen: STEM careers are super fun and satisfying. And they’re the future. STEM careers are driving our economy and redefining modern living. So it’s very important that any girl with an interest in STEM is fully supported by her school, teachers, parents, and peers.
Beata: I think it’s crucial that more girls and women get into STEM careers. These careers can offer a lot of flexibility. For example, we can work from home if we need to. And they’re very satisfying. We get to work on solving interesting problems all day long.
Nancy: According to research, if we don’t get a girl interested in STEM by the time she’s in seventh grade, more than likely she will not pursue a STEM career. So lots of encouragement and exposure in early schooling is critical to opening up STEM careers to more women. So many smart girls are told, “STEM not a great career for you.” But it is. And we need these very bright girls to drive the future.
Importantly, girls need to know that there are many different things you can do in this area. I have worked on many kinds of projects. For one job I worked for a magazine, creating a subscription database for them, and I didn’t know anything about publishing at the time. It really isn’t all about lab coats and math formulas.
What kind of barriers do girls encounter that might discourage them from STEM?
Beata: People think you must be brilliant at math and that isn’t true. It is more important that you are able to think critically and solve problems.
Ellen: I think it’s important to tell them that they can do this without limits. They can succeed. We need their talents and their minds. We need 50 percent of our population to be aware they can contribute as well as the men can, and that they can do what men can.
Nancy: Go to a toy store and look in the girls’ section and then in the boys’ section. What do you see? You see dolls, doll houses, and ovens for girls. And you see STEM activities for boys. When my daughter was in preschool, the boys built suspension bridges and the girls…
Ellen: The girls dressed the dolls.
Nancy: Yes, the girls dressed the dolls or played in the kitchen. That’s what it was like. My daughter, who is a freshman in high school, says that there are very few girls in STEM classes and that girls face pressure to take the more traditional classes like cooking and child development.
Do you have any advice for girls who are drawn to STEM?
Nancy: If I could give a girl one piece of advice about STEM, it would be to tell them that they are not different. There are a many girls out there who like STEM, and the GETT Expo is a great way to find them.
Ellen: My advice would be to follow your passion and have confidence.
Beata: Don’t assume all STEM jobs involve very high-level math and physics, because they really don’t. There is a tremendous variety of STEM jobs and many kinds of opportunities in the STEM fields for girls with all kinds of skills and interests.
What do you have planned for the girls at GETT?
Beata: We have an activity that will use the Boomi process and software to integrate with and control a Roomba robot.
The girls can create a script for the Roomba, which the Roomba will execute. The Roomba receives the script and performs commands like “turn left, go straight, or play some notes.” Then they can change it and make it move differently. Or they can just control it—drive it like a car–so there be lots of ways girls can interact with this device.
We have a second project that integrates the Boomi platform with wireless HUE LED lights. The girls will be able to turn the lights on or off and change their color, among other interactions.
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