UW-Platteville hosts Women in STEM Day

Pioneering the future of women: What do young girls like about STEM?

This past week, I had the amazing opportunity to assist with the “Women in STEM Day” event here on campus. Young middle school girls from the surrounding school districts visited Platteville to learn and explore all the opportunities within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Some of the activities included coding on computers, making robots and doing a geolab. Professors and students from the university dedicated the day to teaching, learning and listening.
I was given a chance to step out of my comfort zone and work on making robots with Dr. Lerner and some colleagues from mechanical and industrial engineering. I come from a farming background, so my major is pretty far from mechanical engineering. I am an animal science and agribusiness major; I do not know much about what it takes to make a motor move an object. However, it was one of the many things I learned that day. I got to witness these girls’ creativity while they bedazzled their robots with googly eyes, pipe cleaners and pom-poms, and then watch as they discovered the secret to making their doodle-bot draw for them. (It was a cork on the end of the motor, to propel the doodle-bot around a piece of butcher block).
On top of that, I talked to the girls about their favorite things to do. One girl shared with me her passion for agriculture and her 4-H club and her deep competitiveness in solving algebraic equations as fast as she possibly can. I recall my memories of loving science and my 4-H club as well. The math, not so much. Overall, the girls’ responses to looking at construction safety equipment, agriculture, biology and engineering opportunities warmed my heart and fortified one of my reasons for being involved in STEM.
The event was especially impactful, as one of the women responsible for the “Hidden Figures” inspiration, Katherine Johnson, passed away last week. It was one of the first times women were really involved in mathematical or scientific discoveries, much less working for NASA. Looking back at those influential ladies, where young girls are now and the goals they can accomplish is truly amazing.