In 30 minute rotations, about 40 East Texas middle school girls built small Lego skyscrapers that could endure mini-earthquake simulations, inspected bugs and reptiles to determine water quality and crafted tables from pieces of newspaper.
During the second annual STEM Like a Girl event held at Discovery Science Place on Saturday, girls were encouraged to pursue careers in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Along the way, they were often guided and assisted by women who study and work in those fields.
"Research has shown that by the seventh grade many girls feel ambivalent toward STEM careers," said Diane Kavanaugh, programs vice president for the American Association of University Women-Tyler chapter, a sponsor of the event. "Our main goal is to expose girls to successful female role models.”
The event included hands-on projects as well as a panel discussion and a Q&A session. In addition to the Tyler chapter of the AAUW, STEM Like a Girl was sponsored by the UT-Tyler Society of Women Engineers and Discovery Science Place.
Chris Rasure, executive director at Discovery Science Center, said the event was in keeping with the center’s mission of igniting curiosity.
“I want them to see themselves in that role,” he said. “I’d hate to think that 50 percent of the world’s knowledge is not going to go to those fields.”
A simultaneous event was held at Discovery Science Place on Saturday with 40 Girl Scouts ranging from ages 5 to 11. They worked on projects to earn an engineering badge. Both events were held as part of National Engineering Week.
Sophie Milan, 12, said she enjoyed participating in the event and was especially impressed by the science portion — where student both handled and observed a variety of insects, turtles, snakes and leaches.
Miss Milan said she hopes to one day become a medical doctor.
“I don’t have the animals at home, so it’s kind to cool to hold them,” she said.